The judge will rule on the Monkey Town cemetery dispute on Thursday over the family’s claim that the remains of a loved one were exhumed
THE HIGH COURT judge presiding over a Barrackpore woman’s trial against the Penal / Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) for allegedly digging up her family’s remains will deliver his ruling on Thursday.
Judge Frank Seepersad heard witnesses from Savitri Sookram and the PDRC on Wednesday in a virtual trial.
At the end of the day of trial, he said he will issue an oral decision.
Sookram sued the company, alleging that roadworks at the entrance to Monkey Town’s public cemetery uncovered her family’s remains, including those of her late husband, who was buried there in 2018.
In February, the judge granted an injunction barring access to the cemetery until a site visit was made to determine whether bodies or burial sites had been obstructed due to road works.
The family also received permission from the local government minister to exhume whatever was left so that it could be reburied.
Her husband, brother, sister-in-law and her husband’s parents were buried on the family plot, some three or four meters from the entrance to the cemetery.
On January 19, 2020, she was told that there was work going on at the cemetery and that her husband’s grave and those of her family had been dug up.
“All the graves have been dug,” she said in testimony on Wednesday.
She also said she was allowed to exhume the bodies of her relatives, but they were bones. Asked by the company’s lawyers if she had done DNA testing on the bones to determine if there were any of her husband’s, she said no. She was also asked if she had done any tests to determine if they were human bones, but she replied: “It must have been … the graves have been dug up.”
His son David, his son-in-law Videsh Siewsankar and his brother Brian also testified.
Siewsankar found bone fragments and parts of his stepfather’s coffin when he visited the cemetery site where work was being done. He said that despite bringing it to the attention of senior company officials, his concerns and those of his family were dismissed.
It is the company’s position that there were no graves at the site where the work was being carried out.
Cemetery Keeper Adrian Hamlyn and Engineer June Soobratie testified for the PDRC.
Hamlyn said if he was not present, no one would know where a grave is in the cemetery unless there is a gravestone there.
He said he never provided a plan of the location of the burial grounds and admitted that other graves were also affected by the excavation work.
“Lots of graves were damaged … it was only the Sookrams who took the matter into their own hands.”
Hamlyn said the day the remains of the Sookram family were unearthed, there were bones, pieces of the coffin and clothing.