High Court Judge Frank Seepersad has expressed concern over the fact that the remains of people, whose graves were allegedly disturbed at the Monkey Town Public Cemetery during recent construction work, are yet to be reburied as their relative pursues litigation against the Penal Debe Regional Corporation.
Seepersad raised the issue as the case brought by 67-year-old Barrackpore widow Savitri Sookram against the corporation came up for a virtual hearing, yesterday morning.
When the case was called, Sookram’s lawyer Wayne Beharry indicated that the graves remain exposed and that the handle of a casket was found missing during a recent inspection.
Attorney Narad Harrikissoon, who led the corporation’s legal team, sought to raise legal issues with Sookram’s lawsuit including an alleged failure to adduce evidence that she had permission to represent the living close relatives of her extended family members buried at the location beside her husband.
Harrikissoon also took issue with the fact that Sookram and her attorneys did not follow the correct process of seeking permission from the Minister of Local Government to exhume the graves and rebury the remains at another location in the cemetery.
He also began to question Sookram’s substantive claim as he said that based on the corporation’s policies and the topography of the area, the graves should not have been in the location they are currently at.
Intervening in the submissions, Seepersad said that such issues would be dealt with at the eventual trial of the case, but noted that steps should have been taken to rebury the remains in the meantime.
“A society which fails to respect their dead and show empathy to the bereaved family, in furtherance of their insular agenda, is a society on the brink of destruction,” Seepersad said.
He also quoted a famous line for former British Prime Minister Sir William Gladstone.
“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals,” Seepersad said.
While Beharry claimed that the application to the Local Government Ministry was properly made, Seepersad still instructed him (Beharry) to serve the ministry with the lawsuit in an effort to resolve the issue before the case goes to trial.
The case is expected to come up for a hearing next Tuesday.
The issue arose last month, after a private contractor hired by the corporation to perform remedial works to the roadway at the entrance of the cemetery, which was affected by a landslip.
Sookram’s lawyers filed the lawsuit and when it came up for emergency hearing before Justice Robin Mohammed, the corporation undertook to not disturb the graves any further.
However, the corporation was allowed to safeguard the burial sites and roadway from any further landslides.
The corporation is also being represented by Andre Sinanan, while Satesh Emrit and Indira Binda appeared alongside Beharry for Sookram.