Pundit Satyanand Maharaj (left), TPRC Chairman Kwesi Robinson, and Senator Kazim Hosein at the Caroni Cremation Site on Wednesday 26 May 2021. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

A large gathering of mourners had to be locked out of the Caroni Cremation Site on Wednesday by the Municipal Police from the Tunapuna Piarco Regional Corporation (TPRC). 

Corporation Chairman, Kwesi Robinson, said funeral homes have been allowing more persons to be present at the site during cremations, than the number stipulated under the present COVID-19 Regulations. According to Robinson, although only one funeral was paid for on Wednesday, some seven bodies ended up at the site for cremation. 

Mourners who came to the site said they were shocked.

“This is an emotional time for all of us. how can you tell us not to see our loved ones for the last time?” one woman said.

However, eventually, relatives were allowed to cremate their dead.

Robinson, along with Local Government Minister, Senator Kazim Hosein, and other local government officials showed up around midday today, at the Caroni Cremation Site.

The TPRC chairman told Guardian Media that funeral homes were carrying out cremations and would notify the corporation a day later.

“The cost for a cremation is $300; on weekends and public holidays the fee is $400. The home has an arrangement with an individual at the TPRC who would collect the monies and pay it. This has to stop,” he asserted.

“The TPRC would be putting police in place at the Caroni Cremation Site to ensure the correct number of persons would be on the site for the funeral,” he said. “There are supposed to be four cremations per day with five persons for each funeral, excluding the funeral agency staff. We are an understanding Corporation. But we do not want these events to be seen as a super spreader event. What I saw there today, I was appalled.”

Robinson said the TPRC had discussions with the funeral homes and informed them of the objectives they hope to achieve to curb the spread of the virus. He also pointed out that he is accessible and in case of an emergency, burgesses can reach out to their local government representative.

And Minister Hosein, who visited relatives of the deceased at the site, gave assurances to the Hindu community that this would not happen again. He said the funeral homes must work with the TPRC to ensure that too many persons are not present at any sites to risk exposure and that the regulations are followed.

Meanwhile, Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh said the mismanagement of the TPRC is to blame.

“How can an individual collect monies on behalf of a Corporation and then pay it a day later?” the Couva South MP asked.

“I was told by an official of the TPRC that funeral homes were not paying the application fee in terms of doing a cremation to the TPRC. The official discovered this a few months ago. I told the official to have a meeting with the funeral homes and call the Fraud Squad,” he reported.

“This closure at the site caused further emotional strain on the bereaved persons. I called Minister Kazim Hosein to intervene. The TPRC has no planning and vision, they abused the families of the deceased and abused the pundits,” the MP said.