Editorial

The moral decay worsens: St Thomas funeral practice of grave concern

Monday, July 07, 2014    

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IN May this year when former Prime Minister PJ Patterson reiterated the need for a national strategy and programme of action to address declining moral standards across the country, he was yet again criticised by his detractors.

Among the loudest critics were some who were probably too young to know that he made an attempt at having the country deal with this issue 20 years ago. Those people we can forgive.

However, there were others who, while armed with the truth of that 1994 effort by Prime Minister Patterson, thought it politically expedient to chastise him anyway.

That latter group, we believe, have done younger Jamaicans a great disservice, for they have a responsibility to use history to frame their comments.

We are not here claiming that Mr Patterson, during his tenure in office, was perfect. No human being is. However, no one can successfully challenge the fact that he did make an attempt to deal with this sore issue of values and attitudes.

In his address to the Rotary Club of Spanish Town on May 27, 2014, Mr Patterson correctly stated that even those who doubted the validity of his plea in 1994, "or contended that the call was driven by partisan political motive, now openly admit its national urgency as our condition has deteriorated beyond belief".

Anyone who doubted the truth of Mr Patterson's statement need look no further than today's lead story in our Observer North East sister publication. Two weeks ago, our news team happened upon a most disgraceful display of disrespect for the dead that has taken root in St Thomas.

Basically, funeral homes, in a bid to attract business, have been packaging grave-digging parties to relatives of deceased persons. These packages include music, card and bingo games, give-aways and other so-called fun activities staged in the cemetery where the dead person is to be laid to rest.

Apart from the fact that people converge on the cemeteries for these activities, we still are unable to get over the blatant lack of regard for the sacredness of what is really a place of rest.

Our news team saw people sitting on graves playing cards and bingo, others danced atop tombs to the latest dancehall hits, while others were noticed drinking alcohol and eating food. Have they no shame?

At the grave-digging party that we saw, the brother of the deceased man admitted that while this form of revelry was unusual in a cemetery, it was what his brother would have wanted.

"He was a very fun person and this is what he would have wanted and so, while it is a sad time, we are enjoying ourselves for him," the brother told us.

But that, dear brother, is an awful excuse for what was taking place inside the Golden Grove Cemetery. That behaviour is almost a desecration of the final resting place of other people's relatives and friends.

The question that the individuals engaging in this practice should ask themselves is how would they feel if all these activities were taking place on the graves of their loved ones.

The St Thomas Parish Council, we hold, has a duty to put an end to this depraved activity.

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