There’s has been controversy over the new cemetery since the site in Hattieville was first disclosed. The cemetery is run by the City Council and as things go there is always conflict. Its thirteen miles from the City which presents a problem for many families, but the biggest bone of contention is that even the cost for dying has gone up. The prices for burial plots have more than tripled, from seventy five dollars, and if your family can’t afford to bury you, well you will still be laid to rest…in the paupers’ section. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.
Marion Ali, Reporting
The Eternal Garden Memorial was officially opened today at mile thirteen on the Western Highway as the new burial ground for Belize City residents. The twenty-point-seven-acre site, according to Councilor Wayne Usher, replaces the historical Lord Ridge Cemetery in Belize City for all new earthen burials, except in cases where burial plots at the Lord Ridge have already been paid for. Usher says that the passage of a new statutory instrument will allow for new types of burials at the new cemetery.
Wayne Usher, City Councilor
“We will have the authority to bury people above ground, we will have the authority to build burials above ground for burial as in Yarborough vaults, we will have the authority to do mausoleums which is like a little hut with several bodies buried inside the hut above ground, we’ll have columbariums where when you cremation your bodies, you can put the urn within little cavities columbariums. I want us to also move into area of cremation of bodies. What that will also do, the statutory instrument; if we have let’s say forty thousand people buried at Lord Ridge, the statutory instrument would then allow us to bury forty thousand more people at Lord Ridge above ground of their loved ones. So you see we will have a lot of burial space coming on stream and different types of burials will be allowed and authorized.”
The Council will also authorize, in emergency cases, night burials, and has purchased necessary equipment to facilitate this exercise. The new cemetery is also said to be topographically suitable and allows for graves to be dug at the required six-foot depth, as opposed to the four-foot depth that was the practiced at the Lord Ridge.
Most people will remember the flood that the media had to wade through on the access road to the cemetery in July of 2010. Usher said that the newly upgraded road is expected to be accessible even in the rainy season.
“It has been raised and if you notice we have excellent drains on either side now so it shouldn’t obtain at all that same situation and we have culverts that are placed along the route so I am trusting very much that it will live up to its standard.”
But while the access road was one problem that was dealt with, there are many more to be ironed out, such as the concerns by Hattieville residents that the site is in their village.
Gilbert Domingo, Chairman, Hattieville
“Our boundaries begin at twelve miles and the burying ground is at thirteen miles which is a mile within the village boundaries.”
“What’s the concern of the residents that the cemetery lies within their boundary?”
“Some of the major concern for us was they never even gave us a notice that it was going to be there. There’s nothing in it for us as far as earnings and that’s one of the other concerns that we got. If you are going to be there as they clearly did, we’re gonna continue to fight against it and see what can happen. The villagers, the community is totally against it, it has never changed.”
“That’s the majority?”
“That’s just about everybody and we have never changed that.”
Another concern is over the new price; two hundred and fifty dollars per grave spot, a price which many will have problems in paying. Usher says that who can’t afford to pay, will be laid to rest in the paupers’ section.
“If you are in the category of being indigent and cannot reach that cost even after, you can come in and negotiate and pay in installments if you don’t have it at one lick, even after that you still cannot pay, then we will have to bury you, we will have that obligation.”
“You mean to write it off because the person will be buried by that time?”
“Yes, we will have to place you in the area reserved for paupers because that is the only area that the council will have “free” for burials, everywhere else will have to pay. So if you are in that pauper burial category it means you do not own that grave it belongs to the council in perpetuity which means that after seven years we can recycle that grave of your loved one.”
Eternal Garden Memorial is located on the same Highway and within reasonable proximity to the privately-owned Homeland Memorial, which also uses as a part of its logo the phrase “an eternal garden” in its advertisements. We brought up this point to Usher’s attention.
“It has no bearing on this one at all. This name came up after discussions with wider area [emm] including churches of senior staff and junior staff at the council and councilors. So we went outside of the Council to come up with the name.”
The first person buried at the new cemetery was Charles Moss Senior this past Tuesday. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.
The cemetery will also have a non-denominational chapel on site. The historic Lord Ridge Cemetery will remain open for tomb burials and the use of spaces already that are owned. It first opened in 1886 and over the decades, it served as the city’s primary burial site.