Funeral parlours deplore state of Le Repentir cemetery City Council Round-Up
with Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
April 19, 2004

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Six of the nine operators of funeral parlours in George-town have all deplored the existing conditions at Le Repentir Cementery and have made suggestions for putting things right.

They told a specially summoned meeting chaired by former mayor Ranwell Jordan of the People's National Congress Reform that the way in which things are being done at the cemetery are un-acceptable to them. Council-lor Jordan was appointed three years ago to head a commission of councillors to investigate the operations of the cemetery and present a report to councillors. Other members were Rudolph Harris of the People's Pro-gressive Party/Civic, and the Good and Green Guyana's (GGG) Harold Kissoon.

That report had recommended a complete overhaul of the way in which the cemetery was administered pointing out the many malpractices by council's employees who have to deal with the burial of the dead.

The recent meeting held in chambers of the city hall, was summoned to discuss the upgrading of the cemetery and the concerns which the council has over the services and state of the cemetery. (The Jordan Commission had dealt with all these concerns, but running true to form nothing was done to correct the situation.)

The assistant city engineer Lloyd Alleyne who represented the city engineer told the meeting that he had noticed that the mortuary in the cemetery which comes under the control of the Ministry of Health was being used by Mr. Colin Smart, a representative of one of the funeral parlours. According to Mr. Alleyne, Mr. Smart told him that he was given permission to be responsible for the mortuary, by the Ministry of Health.

The assistant city engineer mirroring the feelings of city 'fathers' and 'mothers' deplored the unkempt state of the cemetery, a lack of security to keep out vagrants, late arrivals of funerals, some parlours being given 'choice' spots, the purchasing of spots which are not used for many years, tombs being vandalised and some tombs which are badly constructed.

He also suggested that funerals parlours be responsible for the 'whole package', by buying the burial spot, taking care of the digging of the grave and finally the burial.


The parlour operators respond

Ms Olive Lyken who represented the Lyken Funeral Home is reported to have told the city hall meeting that it is unfair to the operators, now that the cemetery has deteriorated, for them to take on the responsibility of digging the graves and other works. She held the view that it was the responsibility of the city council to provide these services.

She said the cleaning of the cemetery should be done during the dry weather, that it was difficult getting over chutes and tombs to the actual grave sites, and suggested that bridges be built closer to the burial spots for easier access.

The representative from the A&D funeral parlour deplor-ed the state of the burial ground adding that if the council digs the graves for the tomb burial, then it is obligated to fill back the chutes.

The A&D representative was in favour of the parlour taking responsibility for the building of the tombs up to the point of burial and that the council take charge of the maintenance of the cemetery.

The absence of stand pipes and the lack of a proper work schedule for grave diggers were also raised by the operators.

The funeral homes which were invited but did not attend the city hall meeting were Merriman's, Lee's, and the Guyana Funeral Parlour.


Talk but no action

At long last the council has decided to appoint "a team" to be headed by city engineer Cephas James "to determine sites where vending may be allowed and where it would be prohibited."

This decision by the council's Legal Affairs and Security Committee headed by GGG councilor Llewellyn john was taken after Mayor Hamilton Green declared that every one occupying the reserves should be made to pay a penalty for so doing. (Better late than never… Mr Mayor)

The 'chief citizen' wants vending to be regularised so it could be conducted in an orderly manner allowing for control by the authorities, so that the council could derive revenues commensurate with this practice.

He referred to the council's ambivalence in many cases with reference to what is taking place on Sheriff Street where businesses occupy council's parapets with no financial benefits to the municipality. Vending outside a diplomatic mission in the city also came in for mention by Mayor Green.

The Sheriff Street issue was again raised at the last statutory meeting by GGG councillor Patricia Chase-Green who told councillors that persons were cooking food in coal pots on the roads outside some night spots. When the deputy mayor Robert Williams who presided in place of the mayor, who was out of the country invited GGG councillor Anthony Boyce to make a contribution to the debate….. (Boyce has not addressed a council meeting for the past two years or more) the offer was not accepted and the councillor remained speechless to the embarrassment of his fellow GGG member.