Thu | Sep 19, 2019

Cemetery clean-up may meet early death

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Kingston Mayor Desmond McKenzie leads a team on a tour of the May Pen Cemetery in Kingston yesterday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

THE facelift under way at May Pen Cemetery since Sunday, which has seen the recruitment of hundreds of west Kingston residents, might be short-lived, Kingston Mayor Desmond McKenzie warned yesterday.

The mayor, who is also councillor for the Tivoli Gardens division where the burial ground is sited, said funding woes could render the clean-up a mere Band-Aid.

"The funding doesn't make it practical for continuous main-tenance," McKenzie said.

Around 500 west Kingston residents have picked up part-time work toiling in the May Pen Cemetery since Sunday, swinging machetes through overgrowth and near damaged tombs which have made the location an urban eyesore and a haven for criminals.

State Minister Robert Montague, who heads the local govern-ment portfolio, said McKenzie's estimated price tag for the clean-up blitz was just about correct.

"The mayor, being the mayor, has tried squeeze a $6-million bill on us, but my chief technical director is here, as well as the rest of my technical staff, and they'll be sitting down with the mayor's technical people to come up with a proper programme.

"But looking around at what is here, I think the mayor's figure is spot on," said Montague, who toured the cemetery with a delegation on Tuesday.

The two-week makeover project, supervised by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation and the National Solid Waste Management Authority, was launched after west Kingston residents claimed security personnel were burying persons, without relatives' knowledge, who died in last month's civil unrest.

The 200-acre May Pen Cemetery serves as the resting place for a wide variety of persons - ranging from careers of political fame and military valour to those of humbler vintage or criminal notoriety. One of the cheapest burial sites in Jamaica, a vault there costs $3,000 and a 'dirt grave' $2,000.