By Emmanuel Togba, Contributing Writer
Robertsfield Highway – Margibi County Electoral District #1 Representative, Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh has alarmed over an unsafe cremation of the remains of a Chinese national in Needowein Community along the Robert International Airport Highway.
Representative Tarponweh, through a release issued said the cremation was performed by the Green Pasture Funeral Home and has created fear in those residing within the vicinity where it was done, leading some of them to evacuate their homes.
“This life-threatening act performed by the Green Pastry Funeral Home has provoked outraged from residents, thereby resulting to some evacuating their homes for fear of being affected by air pollution. This is environmentally horrific “, the release quoted the Rep. Tarponweh as saying.
The owner of the Funeral Home, Dr. Henry Marcus Speare, speaking on a local radio station in Margibi County following the cremation, claimed responsibility but said the exercise was done in line with best international practice.
According to him, he was authorized by the Ministry of Health through the issuance of a permit by the National Public Health Institute of Liberia. The Ministry of Health has refuted his claims.
“It is no crime to cremate body in Liberia. Our society must grow. It is a good thing to do all of these things in our society,” he said.
He continued: “The law requires that you build an oven and the cremation must be performed half a mile from the dwelling of the people. We recognize the sacrifices and the contributions of the Indians and the Chinese in our country. But the way they have selected to put away the dead has become a problem; it shouldn’t be. To perform the cremation, we received permit from the Ministry of Health through the Department of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.”
Contrary to Dr. Speare’s assertions, the Coordinator of Needowein Community, Mr. Nehemiah N. Nyenpan stated that the cremation was openly performed on a land owned by one of the locals. Nyenpan said the action has frightened those residents and called on the Ministry of Health for their intervention.
In his explanation, he said: “Early Sunday morning, January 17, 2021, we saw a car belonging to the Green Pasture Funeral Home moving towards Emmanuel Barclay’s land. After a while, we saw huge smoke and realized it was a burning of the remains of someone. The cremation was done within the dwelling of others in our community. Most of us are in fear here. We don’t know what killed this person.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has taken serious exception to Dr. Speare’s Claims, and in a communication to him, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina S. Jallah said it was important that investigation and clarification be made on the matter as soon as possible.
Excerpt of the letter: “I write to inform you that it has been brought to our attention that your establishment has been allegedly conducting unlawful cremation in Margibi County. According to information gathered, you have been stating that the Ministry of Health has granted Green Pasture Funeral Home permission to conduct these cremations. It’s imperative that clarification be made on this matter.”
Although cremation in Liberia not common, the practice was widely carried out during the deadly Ebola epidemic which claimed the lives of thousands of Liberians in 2014.