Reaping the Whirlwind

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa must have been in one
of his weak moments when he ordered that Muslims who die in
his country be cremated rather than being buried.

By S.G. Jilanee | July 2020

Sri Lanka has enjoyed domestic peace since Velupillai Prabhakaran, who led the Tamil war for separation from Sri Lanka, was killed in action during a battle with the state’s troops in 2009. But, of late, there have been worrisome signs of serious trouble in the making.

In the old days, absolute monarchs could ride rough-shod over the sentiments of their subjects. But even today there are some cranks among elected rulers who issue orders arbitrarily and without giving a fleeting thought to the volatile implications of such orders.

Interestingly, those who issue such reckless orders appear in every respect to be in good health and perfect control of their senses. An example is the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He looks every inch quite healthy and in perfect control of his wits. Yet, recently, he issued a fantastic order that amounts to stark lunacy.

What madness possessed him to order that dead Muslims should be compulsorily cremated? This defies comprehension. In plain words, it is not only absurd but also fraught with dangerous consequences. No other epithet, except utter madness, could appropriately describe the bombshell order, since no one in his right mind would ever think of interfering with or suppressing the observance of religious rites by any community in a civilized society.

The order, therefore, is a sure recipe for disturbing peace and igniting religious rage among Sri Lanka’s Muslims, insofar as it amounts to a direct attack on the Muslim faith by forcing Muslims to deviate from one of their principal religious rituals. It amounts to forced apostasy.

The uncalled for irritant to the Muslims of Sri Lanka is purely Rajapaksa’s brainchild though he may have been ill-advised.

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The writer is a senior political analyst and former editor of SouthAsia. He can be reached at ghulamjil

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