Desecrated and Overcrowded

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A daughter of former ambassador Momolu Dukuly, recently chided the Liberian government in words that suggest the shirking of a key responsibility related to the safety and protection of national treasures — monuments, endangered species, cultural symbols, religious shrines, etc.

Ms. Bindu Fatumata Dukuly said she is gravely disappointed over government’s failure to protect burial sites in this country.

“A civilized government,” she gave notice, “has to be aware of its responsibility to protect the nation’s heritage; that includes burial sites,” Ms. Dukuly wept. She is still depressed after nearly collapsing when she heard that her father’s grave had been vandalized (smashed into, wrecked).

“How can the government sit there and allow grave-robbers to plunder the burial sites of thousands of people without apprehending one culprit,” she wondered.

Ms. Dukuly was reacting to a Daily Observer report that the elder Ambassador Momolu Dukuly’s grave was among several others recently discovered looted at the Palm Grove Cemetery.

In a telephone interview from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, (UAE) with the Observer last week Friday—a day after the Palm Grove Cemetery story appeared—the late Foreign Minister’s daughter, Bindu, informed this paper that she is currently undergoing medical treatment in the UAE.

“I was so depressed.  He was a person who sacrificed his life speaking against injustice in our society,” Madam Dukuly lamented.

“It pierced my heart; so, I always cry whenever I think about the situation,” the broken- heart Ms. Dukuly explained through tears.

And she is not alone. Mae Gene Best, daughter of the late Byron Traub, suffered a similar shock when recently she visited the Duport Road Cemetery where her father, Byron and her brother, Sama Traub, are buried.

Not only had the graves gone missing, but “the place was (rather, is) in a horrible mess,” she exclaimed.  “I was shocked; neither animals nor criminals deserve to be buried there,” she could not help saying. The graves were finally located, but the tombstones identifying them had been stolen.

Every year on Decoration Day, which falls on the 2nd Wednesday of March, hundreds of people experience similar grief of not being able to identify the graves of their loved ones.  Last year, at Palm Grove Cemetery, some people eventually gave up trying to find the graves of their loved ones and decided to simply white-wash or paint whatever graves they could lay their hands on, determined not to take the paint back home. 

Bindu, whose father, she said, had contributed immensely to the political, social and economic development of this country; as such, his grave, along with those of others, should not have been desecrated by robbers.

“What is the government doing about this? They said, they were fencing the plot to avoid intruders, but look at what has happened. Our family’s plot, where he was buried, has been looted of everything: casket, steel rods, and the fence around the family plot—all stolen.”

She pointed out that her father had been a role model for indigenous children in the country.

“Your Publisher, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best was one of the people our father mentored. He helped by teaching them about developing morals—values—and this is what keeps them going,” Madam Dukuly explained.

Both Dukuly and Best have considered exhuming the remains of their respective loved ones and reburying them in more respectable locations, such as their ancestral homes.

The municipalities of Monrovia (for Palm Grove) and Paynesville (for Du Port Road cemetery) are yet to proffer a way forward for better protection and management of burial sites in their respective domains. 

Those who can afford it are taking their newly deceased to the privately-owned Kaiser Memorial Cemetery in Brewerville where bereaved families can “lease” a grave for the remains of their loved ones to be deposited. 

But Dukuly has other plans.  “Nobody should dare to relocate my father’s grave from the Palm Grave Cemetery to Brewerville, outside Monrovia,” she insists.  “I’m going to re-bury him in his own home town, where his great grand children will have the opportunity to see his burial site every day,” she announced to her family.

“This is the first time I have heard that our father’s grave was looted. We will do everything to protect it,” she promised.

(With an assist from Keith Neville A. Best)

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