Facing increased deaths as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Muslim community now faces a setback when finding burial plots for their loved ones.
This is why the imams from 18 mosques in South Trinidad came together, raised funds and started developing a new cemetery at Douglas Road, Barrackpore, to accommodate 400-plus graves.
However, in recent times, thieves have been hampering the completion of the project, carting off thousands of dollars in material from the unopened burial site.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, chairman of the Douglas Road Muslim cemetery Fazar Allaham said they could not afford a watchman, noting that the larceny occurs possibly at nights when no one is around.
“We depend on the donations of people and it is hard to lose materials, especially when it is so expensive now. Last year we had some pilferage of steel and BRC wire. Then the day before yesterday, we acquired a set of blocks, four rolls of BRC and all of that gone too,” Allaham said.
No one has so far been arrested for the theft.
Already strained with the high cost of building materials, Allaham said they will now have to raise more money to continue the construction of a building on the cemetery site.
He said the cemetery is being developed on eight acres of Caroni lands which were given by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Apart from the theft, Allaham said they were still facing setbacks to get burial licenses.
“We got eight acres of land in 2020. The Prime Minister gave us his blessing and 18 mosques in the community signed a petition to acquire this land. We got approvals to build. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Princes Town Regional Corporation that they will supply the labour and we will supply the materials. We were hoping to have this ready by March but with everything that has happened, we have to push back the opening date,” Allaham said.
He added: “It cost us a lot of money to build box drains, pathways for the burial plots and to construct a building 60 by 40 to accommodate the service for burials.”
Allaham called on the minister to approve the burial licenses so they can begin using the cemetery. He also called on the public to assist them in getting the project completed.
Allaham said they hope to develop a recreational area near the cemetery so that bereaved families can have a peaceful place to mourn.
Since the project started, Allaham said they have been receiving calls from Muslims all across the country asking whether the burial ground was complete.
“We are anxious to open this cemetery. We already have a cemetery keeper in place. I am making a plea on behalf of the Muslims for the State agencies to fast track everything because we need this site up. I did two Muslim funerals and my back was against the fence,” he added.
He noted that the cemetery will accommodate Muslims from the Penal, Barrackpore, Princes Town and Lengua communities.
Anyone wanting to contribute to the completion of the project can call Allaham at 385-3527 or donate to the Douglas Road Barrackpore Muslim Cemetery at First Citizens, Princes Town, account no 2811612.