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Dec 2, 2010

Where will the dead sleep?

For months City Council advised that there were only a few spaces available at the Lord Ridge Cemetery. Following Tuesday night’s double murder, there will be even less if any remaining. It’s a problem that has been festering for quite some time. What will Belize City, the municipality with the most monthly recorded deaths, do with its dead?  Marion Ali reports on a situation in which time as well as space are both running out and residents in the area of the new burial site are up in arms.

Marion Ali, Reporting

In July the Belize City Council announced that it would, with the approval of the Ministry of Natural Resources, relocate Belize City’s burial ground to mile thirteen on the Western Highway.  When Councilors Dion Leslie and Philip Willoughby took the media on a tour of the place, its access road was flooded out, the price for each grave spot was not yet worked out, and the residents of Hattieville felt disrespected that they were not consulted about having the graveyard in their community.  Work to open the new location was hastened because the overcrowded Lord Ridge Cemetery in Belize City was fast running out of space.

Four and a half months later not much has changed, except that the work has begun to convert the location at mile thirteen into the gravesite and the price has been set.  Following a meeting at City Hall today on the topic, Councilor responsible for public cemeteries, Wayne Usher, said that plans are going ahead to open the site very soon and while the price per grave spot will more than triple, Councilor Usher says it is up to grieving families to prioritize.

Wayne Usher, City Councilor

“Tomorrow morning we have our workers going up there to cut even more areas that we’ll be using so that we can from the very start have earthen graves on one side, tombs on another side. So we will be working to a plan.”

Marion Ali

“What the new price we’re looking at?”

wayne usher

Wayne Usher

“Two hundred and fifty dollars.”

Marion Ali

“For poor families who will tell you pointblank, they can’t afford that. What will be your response?”

Wayne Usher

“We will have to keep negotiating with the families and to see if they can find how they can go about that. Maybe the credit unions have burial arrangements. It’s traditional for us to, when we have burials, to have a wake. Some people have two nights of wake. So you ask the questions can we afford it. And I say to you maybe if you wanted to have two nights of wake, you only have and then from that other one night, you have the money to pay for the burial space.”

In July we also showed you how the access road prohibited small vehicles from entering the site.  Today when we visited, the road was filled but there were still some problem areas.  But that is not a cause for concern, according to Councilor Usher.

Wayne Usher

“Not with this new site, this new site is already compact. It is land at a higher elevation. We have dug already in that area and found that we can go even deeper with the graves and the integrity of the graves won’t be in question because we are proposing as a policy that only the city council will be doing any kind of work at the new cemetery.”

Another concern is that if in July the Lord Ridge only had seven new grave spaces left and the new grave yard is still not open, then where is the City Council burying the dead?

Wayne Usher

“We have had to resort to using some of the pathways in the cemetery to be burying people and that is really what we don’t want to do. We have major pathway and then we have some auxiliary pathways for you to get from point A to B. We have been using some of the auxiliary pathways which I don’t encourage which we don’t want but that is the only way we can ensure that you have burials.”

Marion Ali

“How much longer will you have to do this until the new one is open?”

Wayne Usher

“We are trying to make sure that by next week we can stop doing that.”

But the real controversy over the new gravesite has to do with the actual location, in the Hattieville proper because Hattieville residents do not want Belize City’s graveyard in their back yard.  But Usher says that was not the view he got some time ago from Hattieville Chairman, Gilberto Domingo, when they spoke a few months ago.

Wayne Usher

“He did not say I totally out of hand reject that and you just get rid of that. He used more accommodating language which that you know what the Cabinet has made this decision; you all have made this decision. We cannot change it but let’s see if some accommodation can be made with that would be with an amicable settlement.”

Marion Ali

“So where are you in meeting that settlement?”

Wayne Usher

“Well we haven’t had any other meeting since then.”

Today, however, Hattieville Village Councilor, Wendy Castillo told us something entirely different, and she said her sentiments reflect the majority of the three thousand plus residents of Hattieville.

Wendy Castillo, Village Councilor, Hattieville

wendy castillo

“Our Constitution states it. If the minister of lands is to take any piece of land in any community for public use, he has to do the right thing and consult with the council first in writing Marion. That wasn’t done. The manner in which this was executed is wrong and up to today, there is no consultation coming from them. It is like they are saying we already made the decision so you guys take it. As local authority, if that’s how they want to do things, then why have a village council to run the affairs. It goes against the Village Council Act and that is what governs us and that is what we will hold each and everyone involved in this process to. That is our position but we will represent the people of Hattieville and they have said no and we will do what has to be done.”

Marion Ali for News Five.

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1 Response for “Where will the dead sleep?”

  1. Elgin Martinez says:

    I’ve got an answer for you all.The dead should sleep in Perdomo’s backyard.

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