by JP Schwmon
Despite the fact that both Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and former PM Sir James Mitchell recently gave voice to their opinions in favor of environmentally friendly operated crematorium services, one funeral home here, is still being denied permission to roll out said services.
Stephen DaSilva, proprietor of the Memorial Funeral Home located in Mesopotamia, described the rationale shared with his firm by the local planning authorities as “a frivolous reason.”
He told Asbert News Network: “They gave us a quasi-reason in terms of location; however in my opinion it is frivolous. Because there are funeral homes across the world where their crematorium is in built up areas.
“In particular this machine is a 2021 machine and it is a better design for the environment. Clean air comes out of the machine.”
DaSilva pointed to the situation in Trinidad where a crematorium is currently being operated in the heart of one business community. According to him the funeral home is situated “right next to a bakery and a restaurant – apartment buildings are located just to the back of this crematorium as well as another crematorium is located just across the street.”
The Physical Planning Department has oversight of the Memorial Funeral Home’s crematorium plans. DaSilva claimed that a person or persons who sit on that Board has seen it fit to block his business’ expansion plans. According to DaSilva that Board has failed to provide any sort of guidance regarding what ought to be done to manage the safe operation of the machine in question.
“We invited them to come and see when the machine was being commissioned, no one turned up. We’ve given them all the necessary documents including an environmental study; I don’t want to say they can’t understand it but clearly they are not really understanding what the machine does and how it can properly serve Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Let’s look at our situation now with COVID-19 – and this is an ideal situation – all of these COVID-19 cases should be cremated. Why? Because they don’t have a handle on the disease and we putting this into the earth.
“Once it goes into the earth it’s going to eventually reach the water table. Then what would we have?
“There are families who want cremation and when we look at the COVID-19 situation it is the most healthy way to go. It’s being done all over the world,” he said.
DaSilva further pointed to the fact that they have had “to negotiate to send our bodies to St. Lucia” to fulfill clients’ cremation requests.
“To add salt to the wound: your costs are tripled to send the human remains to St. Lucia, Grenada or Trinidad. So what the government is doing – [revenue going out the country].”
To date, he said, “we have two bodies here for months now – one is a German guy – to cremate and we can’t get permission.
The visibly annoyed businessman rhetorically queried: “how can you make a decision on a machine that you never saw?”
DaSilva took advantage of the interview to again invite the requisite authorities to visit the Mespo based crematorium.
“Come see the machine, understand the machine – we usually turn it on – so that they could get a better understanding of the machine which would allow them to make a more informed judgement.”
The 3 year-old funeral home boasts the only “ready-to-run” crematorium across the Vincentian islands.
“The machine is here – commissioned – we ran it for a 24 hours endurance test at 1650 degrees. The specialist came from Miami to do that. Not only that but I paid for training for 5 guys.
“Five guys are trained and have a certificate to run the machine and we are just stuck waiting. What else must I do? And this is going on for 3 months now.”
DaSilva harkened back to the experiences he’d endured when he was originally negotiating with the Physical Planning Unit to start his Memorial Funeral Home.
He claimed that phase took “more than two years”, the eventual intervention of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the relocation of the business’ “soak away from the back [which was placed] in the driveway in the front by the road.”
Asked whether or not he would again request PM Gonsalves’ intercession at this juncture, Dasilva responded:
“I don’t know. Right now I’m frustrated so I’m still thinking about what to do. I got an offer to sell this machine to Trinidad – the demand for these machines has grown because of COVID-19.
“It would take them more than a year to get one of these machines. They asking me to sell my machine – they would transport it to Trinidad. Freight has tripled and they have to wait a year, the machine they have down there can’t cool down fast enough because of COVID and we playing the ass here.”
Asbert News Network attempted to verify the veracity of DaSilva’s claims through the local Town Planner’s office. Dornet Hull responded that her office’s policy prevents her from commenting to the media on situations that are still being processed.
Hull further suggested that Montgomery Daniel – the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport and Works – was best placed to answer any such queries. Minister Daniel could not be reached.