Sat | Dec 15, 2018

20 years without public cemetery

Published:Saturday | March 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
The No.5 Cemetery in Spanish Town, St Catherine, has been reported full for many years.
This man, sitting among rubble and graves, appears to be living in the cemetery.
The entrance to the No. 5 Cemetery in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
Mayor of Spanish Town Norman Scott.

St Catherine being home to two of the most popular and widely used interment sites in Jamaica - Meadowrest Memorial Gardens and Dovecot Memorial Park & Crematorium might have helped to obscure the fact that the parish has been without a public cemetery for the past 20 years and is running out of space for burials.

"Of course, there are some small cemeteries and they are all being filled up now and everyone of them, I can say, is almost 90 per cent or 95 per cent full," Norman Scott, mayor of the St Catherine Municipal Council disclosed on Monday during a Gleaner Municipal Corporation Forum at the Social Development Commission office.

He divulged that despite identifying an appropriate property two decades ago, efforts by the local authority to bring it up to required standard have been stymied largely by a lack of cooperation from central Government. "The fact is that there are some things that the council would want to do but are handicapped because of resource. Take a simple one, the parish has been without a public cemetery for almost 20 years.

"It's just last week the minister sent the money that is necessary to put in place a chapel because, you know, a public cemetery has to have certain things - must have a chapel, must have access roads," said Mayor Scott.

Despite this, the council had gone ahead and spent money on fencing the property.


No funds for road


With funding for the chapel now identified, there is still the matter of finding $22 million to build the necessary access roads, one aspect of transforming the property into a proper cemetery. Failure to prioritise such as critical aspect of community development is consistent with the ongoing poor treatment from central Government, the mayor charged.

"This is just one issue, I can speak about markets. Last year the Old Harbour market was burnt down and the council took on itself the cleaning up of the place. Up to today, we have not got the money from the ministry to cover the expenses that were incurred and I could go on and on and say the other things that are needed from the central authority to have the local authority effectively run. We have done a lot with our own source fund.

"If you go the infirmary and see what we have done on the infirmary, if you go to the Spanish Town Market and see what we have done; these are funds that we have found for ourselves and the minister very well knows that the local authorities are extremely challenged in terms of having their own source funds."