Kenneth King Fook is pleading with the Government to allow him to return home from Suriname to cremate his mother under Hindu rites.
On May 14, King Fook’s mother, Judy Maharaj died two days after her 55th birthday from ischemic heart disease and coronary atherosclerosis.
King Fook is among a contingent of seven from Suriname who are trying to get home. He and six other people were working in Suriname providing oil field services. He declined to disclose his company, but said he provides “specialist services in drilling operations.”
On April 21, 69 citizens were repatriated from Suriname.
King Fook’s contingent was contracted from February to May to work in Suriname which is why they were unable to return to TT. Their company is willing to charter a plane to return the citizens to the country.
King Fook and his sister-in-law Richelle De Souza wrote to National Security Minister Stuart Young to request permission to enter the country, but the request was denied, and the correspondence advised the group to “shelter in place.”
King Fook’s wife is also seven-months pregnant. He said she is experiencing high levels of stress and is now considered to have a high-risk pregnancy by her doctors. He wants to return home to be with her.
Maharaj was a staunch Hindu and her body has been in cold storage in a funeral home awaiting her son’s return. King Fook is the eldest of four and his mother’s firstborn son.
“The funeral is not happening. Her body is lying in a funeral home and we can’t do the funeral until I get back…I will do every single rite that I have to. It’s the last thing I can do for her. We were very close,” King Fook said.
King Fook was raised Roman Catholic but wants to honour his mother’s religious beliefs. He is willing to do whatever the government wants to return home and start the burial process for his mother.
“I am willing to be quarantined. I am fully prepared to do whatever the Ministry of Health wants me to do to return home.”
Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram in Aranguez, said having the eldest son perform the final rites ensures that the parent’s soul passes on to the afterlife.
“It is the privilege of the eldest child to do those rights. Wherever he may be, he returns home to do those rites.”
The eldest son is charged with the final rites. In the absence or death of the eldest son, the next son in line performs the rite. If the deceased does not have a son, then the next male relative such as nephew does the funeral rites.
“It is something we take very seriously. We look forward to the day when our eldest child will light the fire to dispose of our remains removing the final breath.”
The air that is trapped in the body is called the final breath. During the funeral service, the final breath is released and the soul is released from being earthbound.
“What they are also doing by having their remains on ice, is preventing the soul from leaving and going on the journey.”
With covid19 restrictions, Maharaj said small adjustments to the funeral rites have been made.
In April, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), announced all religious rites involving going by a river or the sea will be done indoors. The observance of Dasgatra, the ceremony where the eldest son’s head is shaved, done ten days after the disposal of a body, would be done in the yard of one of five designated temples throughout the country.
“Ceremonies by the river were adjusted to do that bit at home, but the essences remain the same. The eldest son is not something we would want to change. To deny someone the rights of the son is unthinkable.”
On Saturday, Government announced all places of worship will reopen on June 12.
In a WhatsApp correspondence, National Security Minister Stuart Young said Government is working “assiduously” to manage the return of nationals while the borders remain closed.
The repatriation exercise, he said, requires a careful balancing of the number of people who can be quarantined by the state to ensure that any possible re-importation of covid19 does not overwhelm the public health system.
“Mr King Fook decided to continue working in Suriname, even though borders were closed and there was an opportunity to join other Trinidad and Tobago nationals in returning home weeks ago…
“Those who returned from Suriname were quarantined by the State and have all since been reunited with their families.”
Young said he was sympathetic to the thousands of nationals who want to return to TT, but each national has their own circumstances which contain personal difficulties and it is a difficult task to manage thousands of those requests.
Government is currently managing the return of nationals from Guyana, Venezuela, cruise ships, oil rigs and students in Jamaica and Barbados.