Tue | Aug 14, 2018

May Pen Cemetery doesn't have to be a dump

Published:Monday | June 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Robert Hill, town clerk.
Graves at May Pen Cemetery in Kingston.

This letter goes to the core of the problems May Pen Cemetery faces, and guess what? I am not sending a bill to the mayor of Kingston.

The former ministers of local government, mayors, members of parliament of Kingston Western, councillors, churches and funeral directors are all responsible for the deterioration at the May Pen Cemetery.

A huge revenue earner was never allowed to realise its true potential because the cemetery was neglected by all and sundry.

My early recollection of May Pen Cemetery was that it had a superintendent, deputy superintendent, clerks, messenger, janitor, gravediggers, lowering-device operators and watchmen.

How can you run a property with more than 100 acres of land without a property manager?

The town clerk's approach to May Pen Cemetery has started off on the wrong path as he has failed to bring the stakeholders on board.

The cemetery faces serious challenges, and the Band-Aid approach, as outlined by the town clerk, is bound to fail.

Some of the issues that need immediate attention are:

1) Computer terminals linked to the KSAC's business office.

2) Rehabilitation of the access road with a comprehensive plan to be implemented on a phased basis.

3) The construction of sanitary facilities for employees and the public.

4) Repairs to open graves.

5) The rehabilitation of the perimeter fence

6) The provision of chemicals/disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease.

7) The rehabilitation of the pauper section of the cemetery.

8) The employment of able-bodied males and females.

9) Impounding of stray cows, goats and dogs.

10) The removal of loiterers.

There is no short-term fix to correct the challenges faced at the cemetery.

Stakeholder involvement

The town clerk must engage the stakeholders to assist him in finding solutions to the problem and remedying them.

He needs to schedule a meeting with:

1) Churches

2) Funeral directors

3) National Solid Waste Management Authority

4) National Environment and Planning Agency

5) Department of Correctional Services

6) Jamaica Constabulary Force

7) Jamaica Defence Force

8) National Works Agency

9) Corporate Jamaica

10) Families using the cemetery

11) Natural Resources Conservation Authority

12) Urban Development Corporation

13) Members of Parliament

14) KSAC councillors

15) Ministry of Works

16) China Harbour Engineering Company

17) Office of the Prime Minister (Labour Day Secretariat)

The town clerk has fallen very low on my radar. He has failed to make the funds available to start planned rehabilitation work. No work can be attempted without a proper work plan and budget.

Our funeral home (Tranquillity) had three interments in the cemetery on Sunday, June 7, 2015.

The cemetery can become viable, but serious planning has to be done, as it is the most affordable burial ground in Jamaica.

Mr Hill, you clearly don't have a plan, as you have starved the cemetery of the necessary funding and you are using the superintendent as a scapegoat.

The May Pen Cemetery, with more than 100 acres of land, needs a property manager.

If you acquiesce to my suggestions, you will make a great start to putting the cemetery on a path to viability.

The May Pen Cemetery is approximately 400 years old. There are graves there dating back to 1620. A cemetery started in St Catherine more than 20 years ago is now paid for and recording a profit. Families overextend themselves to afford the fees of privately owned cemeteries.

I am told the cemetery is without electricity. What about the crematorium, for which provision was made? If we are going to maximise the use of the lands with 'spatial' consideration, we must establish the crematorium. I gave former mayor, Desmond McKenzie, an estimate for the cost of the crematorium.

I trust that you will look at these deficiencies with a view to addressing them in the near future.

n Joseph M. Cornwall Sr (JP), Managing Director/CEO, Tranquillity Funeral Home. tranquillityfh@yahoo.com