OPEN-air cremations of covid19 bodies will begin immediately as government has agreed to the proposals submitted by the Hindu community for the ceremonies in keeping with public guidelines.
This position was confirmed in separate letters between the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) and the Attorney General, and a subsequent release from the Maha Sabha on Friday.
In his letter to the Maha Sabha's attorney Stefan Ramkissoon, AG Faris Al-Rawi said the recommendations were accepted although the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) still had concerns.
"Please note that the CMO maintains that there is significant danger in permitting open-air cremations for covid-19 deceased." He said the government held talks with the SDMS to clarify that the holding of open-air cremations was a matter for the Commissioner of Police (CoP) or a police officer above the rank of inspector."
At a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's on Saturday, the Prime Minister supported Al-Rawi's position.
Dr Rowley said one of the requirements of managing the pandemic was to adjust how funerals take place in TT, in keeping with covid19 protocols. While it took some time and some people were upset about being unable to perform funerals in keeping with their religious beliefs, Rowley was pleased that a situation has been achieved where "they are now doing that."
On the issue of open-air cremations, he said," It only applied to covid bodies. Nobody had shut down the use of funeral pyres."
Rowley said the decision by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to procure a refrigerated container to store the bodies of covid19 deceased people was reasonable since Tobago had only one mortuary. Noting the discussion about additional storage facilities in Trinidad for covid19 deceased is ongoing, Rowley hoped a situation would not be reached where this issue could not be solved. Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the regional health authorities (RHAs) are continuously reviewing their respective mortuary capacities.
Rowley also said a heavy usage of public burial grounds in TT and this is common in many countries during the pandemic.
Acting CoP McDonald Jacob said once the necessary applications for open-air cremations are approved, those cremations will be allowed. These applications are done under the Cremation Act. The act's regulations state that applications for permits for open-air cremations must be made at least six hours before the intended cremation.
Newsday was informed that preparations were being made on Saturday at the Caroni Cremation Site for four open-air cremations. The Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation said the public and funeral homes can apply to it to stage open-air cremations.
In a statement on January 14, SDMS acting general secretary Vijay Maharaj said the SDMS will now withdraw the legal claim on open-air cremations which is before the High Court "as it sees no merit in litigating these matters any further."