Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi addresses members of the media during his virtual press conference, yesterday.

While the Government has given the green light for the resumption of open-air pyre cremations for COVID-19 victims, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) still maintains that it poses a significant danger.

In a letter to the attorneys of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMA) on Friday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi noted that the Government accepted the proposals they discussed during his meeting with Dharmacharya Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram of the SDMS and with legal adviser Dinesh Rambally.

However, the AG noted that the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Roshan Parasram, maintains that there is significant danger in permitting open-air cremations for the COVID-19 deceased. “The Government took the initiative to enter into discussions with representatives of the SDMS so as to clarify that the holding of open-air cremations for COVID-19 victims was a matter for the Commissioner of Police or a police officer above the rank of inspector. The Government does not and has not opposed the holding of open-air cremations.”

To ensure that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is reminded of this, he said the Ministry of National Security will immediately inform the TTPS “that as always it is free to consider and to grant permits so as to facilitate the holding of open-air cremations.” The AG was responding to a letter sent through the SDMA’s attorney Stefan Ramkissoon containing the draft framework for the resumption of open-air cremations for COVID-19 deceased.

The proposals included that the bodies be prepared and handled by funeral agencies according to the protocols and regulations which govern them in this regard. Also, corpses will not be taken to private dwellings and homes but only directly to cremation sites. The people participating in the performance of rites will wear gloves and masks and no more than 25 people are to be allowed on the cremation site, inclusive of the pandits and people directly involved in the rites. The cremation ceremony will not exceed 75 minutes and people will be asked to leave immediately upon completion.

No more than seven people will be in attendance for the collection of the ashes and bone fragments, they must wear masks and gloves and this ritual will not take longer than 30 minutes. Contacted about complaints that UNC controlled corporations were still not approving open-air cremations, Rambally said his information was that the cremations were being allowed by all corporations.