The Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) is seeking to improve the burial grounds at the May Pen Cemetery, in Kingston, to reclaim the interest of persons who seek to give their loved ones a proper burial.
On a tour of the cemetery yesterday (June 15), the Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Desmond McKenzie showed Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague, the scope of work to be done, and estimated that it would cost approximately $10 million.
Several work teams were in the cemetery weeding and cutting down shrubs as part of a massive bushing programme, which started this week. Several graves, which have collapsed, are also to be rehabilitated and the remains reburied.
A woman rakes grass in the May Pen Cemetery, in Kingston, yesterday (June 15), where work teams are currently carrying out bushing activities.
Mayor McKenzie pointed out an unused section of the cemetery which, he said, would be cleared and landscaped to provide more burial spots. It is in this new area that the Council hopes to generate renewed interest. He said that section would also be used to bury some of the persons who died during the operation by the security forces in West Kingston, last month.
However, the Mayor conceded that maintenance of the cemetery would be challenging, as the facilities span over 200 acres.
“To maintain 200 acres is like the same money that you spend to clean it and probably even more. We are going to put in a maintenance component and we have always done that, but the funding doesn’t always make it practical for continuous maintenance,” he explained.
Mr. McKenzie said the KSAC was in discussions with several partners to secure funding for maintenance, in particular the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to which a proposal has already been submitted. He is also appealing to persons, who have loved ones buried in the cemetery, to help by clearing around the graves from time to time when they visit.
Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Desmond McKenzie (right), and Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague, look at a tomb during a tour of the May Pen Cemetery, in Kingston, yesterday (June 15). The Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation is currently carrying out a massive clean-up of the facility.
Meanwhile, Mr. Montague said the Department of Local Government is looking to forge partnerships to help with the maintenance of the island’s public cemeteries. He said the department might consider raising burial fees in some instances to help with the maintenance costs.
“The Chief Technical Director is here as well as the rest of the technical staff and they will be sitting down with the Mayor’s technical people to really come up with a proper programme,” he said, in regard to the May Pen cemetery.
Mayor McKenzie informed that the May Pen Cemetery is the cheapest in the Corporate Area, with vaults costing $3,000 and dirt graves, $2,000. The cemetery currently facilitates between 5 and 20 funerals per week.