Stop on digging of new burial grounds in full cemeteries from October
As from October 1, digging of new burial grounds in all full cemeteries presently under the management of the Agency for Social Protection (ASP) will stop, on account that there are no new grounds for new graves digging.
The announcement was made yesterday by the chief executive of the ASP, Brenda Morin, following cabinet approval on September 1 of the way forward for burial services.
Ms Morin was joined by cemetery manager Normand Renaud and director of Public Health Services Rodney Philo.
According to Ms Morin, since the agency assumed responsibility for the management for burial services and all state-owned cemeteries on Mahé and Praslin from a private entity, and on La Digue from the La Digue Trust Fund, numerous pertinent issues have been observed.
The shortage of burial grounds is major cause for concern, with the Glacis, Mont Fleuri, Cascade, Takamaka and Anse Boileau, and Nouvelle Decouverte and Baie St Anne Praslin located on Praslin, cemeteries categorised as full, with no new grounds for grave digging. As such, grave digging is an option only at the Anse Royale and Baie Lazare cemeteries.
The only burial in the full cemeteries which are permitted are the re-opening of exiting grave by family members and dust or urns burials, subject to Public Health Regulations. The law permits re-opening of graves after every six years. Therefore, family members are being encouraged to identify a family member’s grave with which they would wish to be buried in future, Ms Morin noted.
It must be noted there are a total of 17 cemeteries in Seychelles, five of which belong to the Roman Catholic Church, namely, Bel Ombre, Anse Aux Pins, Baie Lazare, Port Glaud and Sweet Escot, although they are also managed and maintained by government, at no cost to the Church. The remaining 12 cemeteries, seven of which are located on Mahé, namely, Glacis, Mont Fleuri, Cascade, Takamaka, Anse Royale, Anse Boileau and Baie Lazare, the four on Praslin at Nouvelle Decouverte, Anse Boudin, Grand Anse Praslin and Baie St Anne, and one on La Digue at Anse Severe, were transferred to the ASP, along with 78 employees, on June 1.
With an average monthly death rate of 50 persons prior to the pandemic, and an average of 60 deaths monthly with the pandemic, cabinet is also encouraging the population to consider alternatives such as cremation and grave re-openings as a means of burial. Cremation is growing increasingly popular with 130 cremations of 413 deaths between January to July 2021.
As explained by Mr Philo, there is also the option of burial at seas, and at home, subject to Public Health Regulations.
“The law provides for different methods by which to dispose of human remains, and burial at sea is a method. Normally, the cases which we have got, it has been the choice of individuals who maybe was a fisherman or a foreigner who fell in love with the Seychelles oceans. The procedure is that they come to us with a copy of the death certificate with the cause of death stated. We then liaise with the Port Master as there is a certain distance at which it should be disposed of, and it is thrown into the sea with certain weights to keep it down,” Mr Philo explained.
As for individuals wishing to bury their loved ones at home, the law provides that they seek permission from the PHA, for a site visit and to see if the premises meet the conditions, that is, if it is not densely populated, if it is not located within a certain distance of a river, among other criteria.
With regards to common graves, the public are advised that unclaimed or abandoned graves may be opened, and are to be gazetted one-month prior to the intention for re-opening, to allow for them to declare their interests in the grave. Individuals may also within a reasonable timeframe approach the agency to claim existing graves.
Within the short term, government remains committed to engaging in discussions with the Roman Catholic Board of Trustees, who had expressed their intention to transfer five cemeteries to the state, as government already maintains the facilities and to offset the shortage. It was also highlighted that burials regulations are not being followed in these five cemeteries, with the issue of shallow graves being a recurring one.
Still in line with government’s short-term strategy for burials going forward, burial services will be transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, who is already equipped with the necessary resources in the districts to have the oversight roles, and the functioning of the state cemeteries, effective as of January 2022. It must be noted that the ministry was managing the service prior to 2012.
The decision was taken upon completion of the ASP assessment in which it was concluded that an assessment of burials in Seychelles Burial services do not fall within the mandate of the ASP, whose mandate is to provide social assistance and a social safety net to citizens in need. As such, having burial services under its responsibility affects the core functioning of the agency.
In the long-term, government intends to encourage investment in at least two additional cremation services as there is presently only one. Government also intends to, through the help of experts, undertake work to identify areas of the cemeteries that can accommodate mausoleums, columbarium and vaults. This requires identifying land in the South of Mahé and on Praslin to make available for the crematoriums.