Health minister refutes claims that gov’t mismanaged new public cemetery’s funds

Minister of Health Sir Molwyn Joseph (file photo)
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By Carlena Knight

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The Minister of Health has fervently denied claims that his government mishandled funds designated for the construction of a new public cemetery in Tomlinsons.

During a previous sitting of Parliament, Sir Molwyn Joseph and his colleagues were accused of mishandling funds from the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) earmarked for the estimated EC$2 million project set to feature a non-denominational church, crematorium, and an ecumenical centre spread across 10 acres.

However, while speaking in Parliament yesterday, Joseph shot down the claims and outlined what work has already been completed for the Tomlinsons Garden Cemetery.

“The allegation was made that this government spent $2.1 million on the development of this cemetery. Let me say that is false.

“There was an image with myself and the Minister of Works Lennox Weston clearly implying that we were involved in some kind of wrongdoing and mismanagement of government resources; there can be no government in my history as a politician that is more transparent than this government,” Joseph said.

“I hope with this explanation that it will put to bed the sort of inuendo, the sort of suggestion of impropriety. There is no such thing that over $2 million has been spent on that site. It is a shame!

“It is mischievous and it is meant to mislead the people of Antigua and Barbuda. As far as I am concerned the money was well spent.”

He explained that so far EC$140,000 has been used to acquire the services of the two US experts who worked on the historic Arlington Cemetery, plus two local experts. Since that time, the group has completed a hydrological and geo-technical review of the proposed site, he said.

“All this was part of what we paid for. There was no guess work done here and then we developed the master plan. Some of the ponds around the area will be rehabilitated to serve as part of the irrigation that will be required at the site…the people of Antigua and Barbuda must know that the funds for this were well spent,” he added.

He revealed that the plan is to divide the area into eight sections with each division given a specific name to make it easier to locate the deceased, as opposed to St John’s Public Cemetery where there is no proper identification system.

Joseph also mentioned that the way in which persons are buried will also be changed to make way for modern features.

“These big mounds are something of the past. There will be facilities at the cemetery where we will have the ground prepared with a headstone so that when you come at the end of the burial, they roll out the tombstone so that it will look like it has been there for a long time.

“Also, there will be a first in Antigua and Barbuda where we will offer persons a chance to store the urns of their loved ones as well at the cemetery,” Joseph said.

A timeline for when the project will begin remains unconfirmed; it was previously reported that the work has been delayed due to a lack of funds.

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