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Family members look on as Justice Frank Seepersad visited the Monkey Town Public Cemetery, Monkey Town, Barrackpore.

It took a visit by High Court judge Frank Seepersad to determine that graves at the Monkey Town Public Cemetery were dug up during road works last month.

As a result of his findings, the judge ordered the Ministry of Local Government to prepare an exhumation order by Thursday.

This follows a civil claim brought by 67-year-old Barrackpore widow Savitri Sookram against the Penal Debe Regional Corporation.

She claimed that the graves of seven of her loved ones including her husband were desecrated and disturbed during works by a private contractor hired by the corporation.

In her claim, she complained that bones and a part of a coffin were visible. However, the corporation had countered that the graves were not affected. During a virtual hearing last Tuesday, the judge granted an injunction preventing any access to the cemetery until his visit.

Sookram, court staff, a Local Government representative, attorneys, and other people involved in the matter were present when the judge arrived at the Barrackpore cemetery around 1.30 pm yesterday. After seeing the extent of the damage, the judge said that in a civilized society the bodies would have been exhumed and reburied before any work commenced. He said this was not done and now they must do what is right to treat the disrupted remains with respect.

The corporation asked, however, that the road works resume as no burials have been done since the incident last month. The judge gave permission for the works to continue on the condition that it is contained to two feet from the retaining wall. He said the primary concern of the court at this stage was to ensure that the dead rests in peace and to abate the emotional distress of the affected family. As for who will pay the costs of the exhumation and reburial, that will be determined when the matter resumes on Friday.

Asked what he expects would happen on that day, Sookram’s attorney Wayne Beharry said, “We expect that we have the Minister’s approval for the exhumation and to finalize who will bear the cost associated with the exhumation which we are hopeful that goodness will prevail and the corporation will stand the cost.”

If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the judge will give a ruling.