Saturday, November 03, 2007

Provide funds for cemetery maintenance

Provide funds for cemetery maintenance
Charles Hector
Nov 23, 07 6:09pm

It was nice to hear Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi talk about religious tolerance and the importance that he places on understanding what is happening and taking the best actions and approaches to controlling any situation.

Nov 2 was All Souls Day for Catholics, and on this day there were special prayers and blessings at the cemeteries. This year, I went to the Christian Cemetery in Mentakab, Pahang and was shocked at the state of the access road and the cemetery itself.

The road was un-tarred dirt-road with potholes – the kind you worry that your car may anytime get stuck in the mud. Then, there was the cemetery itself, which was badly maintained. Wild grass and thorn bushes did not give it a semblance of a revered resting place of the dead. Most of the older graves were not only visible but inaccessible.

It is the government that gives and approves land for the usage as a cemetery, and if the land allocated is deep inside, far from the main roads or tarred roads, at the very least, as a sign of respect, the government should ensure that there is proper access road that is tarred and maintained regularly. There must also be proper and clear signage provided.

The government and the local authority should also maintain these access roads and maybe also the cemetery as a whole, by at least by cutting the grass and brush once a month, and maintaining the gate and boundary fences. There must also be sufficient land allocated around a cemetery that allows for parking of vehicles.

Of course, for the maintenance of cemeteries, some religious communities may want to maintain it themselves, and if that be the case, the government should at least provide minimum fund for the maintenance annually – and also maybe even set guidelines as to the minimum standard of maintenance required, and the penalties that could be imposed on persons responsible for maintenance.

This particular Christian cemetery that I visited is in the Temerloh district – which is has a Barisan Nasional member of parliament and also a BN state assemblyman, and knowing that they have constituency development funds allocated to them, maybe they should use some of these monies to at least temporarily uplift the conditions of the cemetery and access roads of the various different religious communities in their constituency. The dead cannot vote but we must at least show some respect to their final resting place.

In responding to our prime minister’s call, I have raised some understanding on what is happening with regard to cemeteries and graveyards of religious communities, suggested, what I believe, are the best actions and approaches that can be taken by a government that advocates respect for persons of different religions and culture in Malaysia and hopefully something will now be done.

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