The private contractor hired to construct a retaining wall at the Monkey Town Public Cemetery ‘Garden of Rest’ on Friday halted construction as an investigation has been launched by the Penal Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) after 20 graves and tombstones were dug up.
In fact the relatives of a family buried at the cemetery have initiated legal action against the corporation for disinterring their loved ones’ remains.
During a visit to the cemetery on Friday by the Guardian Media residents claimed that despite pleas and concerns from affected relatives construction workers continued well after 10 pm Thursday with workers using a floodlight to help carry out the job.
One resident, who wished not to be identified had his suspicions about the late-night work.
“We don’t know why they were there so late but we believe that stuff were loaded up on dump trucks and taken out of the cemetery and dumped elsewhere. We believe that there is an alleged move to hide evidence of graves, human remains of people’s loved ones and tombstones, even coffins we saw were being removed.”
Caretaker of the cemetery, Adrian Hamlyn, 72, said he has been keeping records of burials at the cemetery since he took over from a female relative in 2013.
He showed Guardian Media the bookkeeping records detailing the names of people buried at the cemetery and the locations of the graves dating back to 1964.
Hamlyn said he has since been contacted by PDRC officials and told to come in on Monday morning with the book.
However, he said he remains confused and sceptical as to why they want to meet.
“To begin with they never told me anything. They never consulted me and although the contractor denying that there were graves I have all the records of all the burials over the years even up to November 2020,” Hamlyn said.
“I don’t know why they want me come in with my book but I will go and hear what they have to say because the families are really angry over what took place during the week from Tuesday to Thursday night,” Hamlyn added.
Guardian Media was also told that family members of the Sookrams, whose graves were reportedly disturbed and their remains disinterred have already made contact with their attorneys and have initiated legal action against the PDRC.
“I know the attorneys are now involved and legal action has already started. Yes, the land started caving in but look at where the work started by the contractor not even along the boundary or where the land started facing in from. They say is a retaining wall they building but I don’t really know what is going on and why families have been stressed like this. Even I, underwent heart surgery and now with all of this I am having chest pains because of the stress,” Hamlyn said.
Since the excavation work began on Tuesday affected relatives have made their way to the cemetery to see first hand what has taken place.
One Monkey Town resident Videsh Siewsankar, said five of his relatives’ graves were disturbed. He was upset about the lack of respect shown to the final resting places of those people cared about.
PDRC’s chairman Dr Sammy, in an immediate response on Thursday said a technical team from the PDRC was sent out to have the matter addressed immediately by initiating a comprehensive investigation.
Yesterday he added, “After the wall is completed, it’s not on any graves I’m told, we’ll be restoring the removed dirt by hand in the presence of the families affected. This way they can ascertain if any caskets were disturbed.”