By: Andrew Carmichael
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has advised the Police not to institute charges against the contractor who has been accused of digging up the Rosignol Cemetery to access sand for construction purposes.
However, the relatives of those whose graves were allegedly excavated are not happy with this decision.
In September 2023, a contractor had reportedly dug up sections of the Rosignol Cemetery to access reef sand.
In so doing, he had disrupted the final resting places of several deceased persons, and his alleged action had resulted in an investigation being mounted by the Guyana Police Force.
After the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, had tendered her advice not to institute charges against this contractor, following submission of the Police file for legal advice on the way forward, Region Five Commander, Senior Superintendent Kurleigh Simon, met with some of the concerned relatives to inform them of the DPP’s advice.
He later informed this publication: “There were some issues that had to be cleared up, and finally the file came back with advice that the interested parties; that is: the NDC or the persons who claim that their deceased relatives’ gravesites were desecrated, can take private legal action; because there was not enough evidence against the contractor or the individual for a criminal charge to be preferred.”
Commander Simon explained that this development has not been taken lightly by some relatives of the deceased. One such person, Sookram Persaud, whose brother Balram Persaud was buried at the said cemetery, is calling for justice.
Another person, Juliet Dukhi, who had buried her mother there in December 2021, declared that that burial spot has been excavated. She said, “The news that we got is that there is not sufficient evidence to go forward with the case. I don’t know what evidence they are looking for, but evidence is not for me to find; I think the Police have to look for the evidence. When the Police ask me the questions, I can only give them what I know, but I am not the one to go after the criminal.”
Another aggrieved resident, Amin Sherif, has said he was told by the Commander that the NDC has distanced itself from the issue. He declared: “The Commander say to we that the Village Office say they don’t know nothing about the burial ground, and they are not responsible for the burial ground…”
“But the Village Office does take money from people for them to bury here!” Sherif said as he expressed disappointment at the developments. His mother was buried in this cemetery in 2003, and his father in 2005.
“I am very hurt! We would come here to have their memorial, but I can’t come back here anymore, because they are not here anymore!” a grieving Sherif told this publication as he stood at the spot where his parents had been laid to rest.
And Abiola Hector, whose mother had been buried in the cemetery, explained that the Police had requested pictorial evidence of the funeral, but she had been unable to produce any. She explained, “When my mother died, I was 11 years old, and now I am 37; so, you can tell how long ago my mother died. We used to keep that grave as a memory (memorial); we would weed and clean it up… When we came here, we saw the excavator digging, and we couldn’t do anything!”
She declared, “I am disappointed in the Police! The Police are supposed to do a little bit more! I don’t know what evidence the DPP is looking for, but we have receipts from the NDC. We are looking for SOME sort of justice!”
After this imbroglio had initially been publicized, the contractor had alleged being the owner of the land on which the cemetery is situated. Accordingly, the Rosignol-Zee Lust Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) had become involved in the matter, and had made available a plan of the area which seems to suggest that the cemetery is situated in an area designated as a cemetery.
Moreover, fresh graves have appeared therein.
Asked whether it might be a case of the Police not presenting the evidence needed for prosecution, Commander Simon has contended otherwise. He declared, “When the file came back to clarify some issues, all of the parties were contacted, and further statements were taken and documents and photographs were supplied. So, we did as much as we could have done to put together a proper file so that the DPP can be properly informed and to give a sound directive.”
Nevertheless, the residents say they will continue to pursue the matter until justice is served.
Meanwhile, this publication has been informed that the land being used for the cemetery had been donated to the NDC by a private resident in 1960, but the authority has no documentation to show ownership.