Scuffles at J.C. Howard Cemetery

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Decoration Day, set aside by Legislation to remember the dead by cleaning up their burial places, instead ended in a disgraceful graveside fight yesterday at the J.C. Howard Cemetery in the Voker Mission Community, Paynesville outside Monrovia.

More than 200 people watched in shocked silence as a lady identified as Theresa Fallah, publicly authorized her family members to open a vault and remove a casket concealed in it.

 She was backed by a group of people who hurled insults at the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC).

  Mr. William Dolo, chairman of Voker community, also vented his anger against the PCC, claiming that “although the cemetery is full (surpassing its capacity), PCC workers continue to ignore it, and collect money to bury bodies here. They even remove bodies from their graves and bury others in their places.”

At one stage, many in the aggrieved group attempted to attack a man identified only as “Solo”, said to be an employee of the PCC.

  Many of them claimed that Solo collects money on behalf of the PCC to have bodies buried at the already overcrowded cemetery. Solo, however, escaped from his pursuers and went into hiding.

  The Daily Observer learned that the commotion started when Mrs. Fallah and her family went to the cemetery to clean-up their mother’s grave and upon their arrival they noticed a new paint mark on the tomb, signifying that someone had buried another person in the same tomb that their mother had occupied since 2010.

  Mrs. Fallah later realized that a casket believed to have contained the remains of her mother had been removed and dumped outside the vault and she therefore asked her family to remove the ‘new’ casket buried in her mother’s vault.

 Minutes after Mrs. Fallah and her family took the decision, she, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, expressed their frustration: “You can see my mother’s casket lying outside there and she was buried here since 2010. Every year all of us children come here to clean her grave.”

  She said when they made the discovery; she reported the incident to community chairman Dolo, who advised her.   As a result she took the action to rebury her mother’s remains.

Mrs. Fallah said she decided to remove the new plastering on the vault when she discovered her mother’s name on the tombstone.

When the Daily Observer contacted chairman Dolo, he blamed the PCC supervisor assigned at the cemetery.

“I’m in tears with those who are weeping.  Since 1984 I have been living here and such a thing has never happened before,” he said.

“Things have gradually gone out of our hands, regarding the grave desecration in this community.

“You can see dead bodies lying all around the area. PCC is responsible, because their people are assigned here daily. They take care of the place; we don’t have anyone in the community assigned with them,” Dolo complained.

 “In February we communicated with the PCC authorities, but nothing has been done in that direction. So we are appealing to government to have the place fenced and closed,” Dolo said.

  Meanwhile, a PCC official denied the PCC workers are responsible for the desecration of the graves and asked residents to meet with PCC officials about their concerns.

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