Government lifts ban on open-pyre cremations for covid19 deaths

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE BAN on open-air pyre cremations of covid19 fatalities has been lifted.

The announcement came on Thursday from Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in a statement to the media.

The lifting of the ban comes as the State faced two separate legal challenges to the policy guidelines set out by the Minister of Health to funeral homes and hospitals on how to treat covid19 fatalities.

In the statement, the AG’s office said a series of meetings were held with Prime Minister, government ministers and Chief Medical Officer Roshan Parasram and a team from the Maha Sabha, which included Dharmacharya Dr Rampersad Parasram, a former CMO, and its legal advisor Dinesh Rambally.

The statement said after broad consideration it was decided “to direct that permission be granted for the holding of open pyre/air cremations for covid19 victims.”

The AG said the public health regulations, guidelines and protocols were not static.

“The State has always informed of the constant review of positions taken in respect of the management of the covid19 pandemic and of the need to permit room for decision making based upon the factors involved in same.”

Al-Rawi thanked the Dharmacharya for his assistance and Rambally for the conciliatory approach taken on behalf of the Maha Sabha as the teams work towards settling the necessary protocols and guidelines for covid19 open-pyre cremations. The Maha Sabha’s recommendations will assist in guiding the new protocols.

The statement said, “Government was not in a position to have come to this decision any sooner and remains grateful for patience and understanding in the management of the ravages caused by the covid19 pandemic in which thousands of persons have tragically lost their lives in our beloved country.”

In an immediate statement, the Maha Sabha thanked Dr Rowley and Al-Rawi for their consideration of the issue.

“When the leaders of our country work together great things can be achieved.”

The latest development will also result in the Maha Sabha withdrawing its claim before the court in which it complained of the harshness of the policy ban on the practice of Hinduism. It also complained it was more costly to have cremations in crematoriums.

The Maha Sabha thanked the other Hindu groups which joined in the call for the restriction to be lifted.

“The Maha Sabha will continue to work in the best interest of the Hindu community and we are already proceeding to prepare certain guidance on cremation rites, to the Attorney General, which will help to inform the drafting of protocols moving forward.”

In recent weeks, there have been repeated calls for the ban to be lifted because of almost filled-to-capacity cemeteries across the country.

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