How to Fix Palm Grove Permanently

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Yes, Decoration Day is well over; we have passed J.J. Roberts’ Birthday and even the President is back after an extensive and successful post-Ebola visit abroad.  So it is time to move on. 

We have indeed a lot to do in the march to the Declaration of Liberia as Ebola-free.  To ensure that that day arrives soon, let us continue constantly to wash our hands, take our temperatures, avoid close body contacts, keep our homes and neighborhoods clean and take ALL the other measures necessary to ensure that the virus is effectively eradicated from our land and from the entire Mano River basin.

As we await the President’s report on her trip, which will hopefully define the way forward in the rebuilding of the national healthcare delivery system and the economy, there is some urgent unfinished business from last week: it is addressing the grave anguish, despair and disappointment which so many of us experienced on Decoration Day—desecration and destruction of many of our loved ones’ graves, especially at the national cemetery on Center Street, Monrovia.

There is laid to rest several of our most prominent citizens, including Presidents, Vice Presidents, Legislators, Secretaries of State and other Statesmen and Women, Educators, Civil Servants, Medical Doctors, Nurses, Parents, Guardians and Common Folk.

And yet Monrovia’s leading and most historic cemetery has for decades been in a desperate state.  It has been the shelter of some of the worst miscreants (criminals, scoundrels, wrong doers), who have consistently broken through its iron gates installed there several years ago by City Mayor Ophelia Hoff Saytoma, and made it their “home.” There they have urinated, defecated, smoked pot and, to add insult to injury, vandalized the graves of our Blessed Dead.

Many people interviewed by the media on Decoration Day—as on all such Days in recent years, have expressed torturous anguish (distress, pain, suffering) at the cemetery’s woeful state, which led one citizen to ask last week, “What kind of country are we living in so?”

Indeed, what kind of country is it that will so despise, dishonor, desecrate (insult, vandalize) its dead?

That question is directly related to the very security of the state.  Have we ever thought about the relationship between protecting our dead and the living in our country?  There is, indeed, a direct relationship.  For if a society cannot protect its sacred dead, how can it care for the living, most of whom, especially in this country, exist in abject poverty,  despair and vulnerability (defenselessness, weakness)?

Even the very City Corporation of Monrovia, commonly known as City Hall, seems indifferent to this atrocious (awful, dreadful) state of affairs.  Can you imagine that the very walls of the Palm Grove Cemetery was not white-washed on Decoration Day?

The unguarded, unprotected, vulnerable state of our cemeteries makes people wonder whether Liberia is truly ready to take over our national security when UNMIL departs.

Here is what we think can be done to correct this despicable (shameful) situation: first, the government of Liberia—and that includes the Ministry of Justice and its Joint Security apparatus—should call an URGENT meeting and decide what MUST be done to protect ALL the nation’s cemeteries, especially the Palm Grove. 

Second, all gates to the Palm Grove should be repaired, reinforced and its walls refurbished (fixed up) with whitewash periodically—not just on Decoration Day. 

Third, a twenty-four hour security system, comprising officers of the Liberian National Police (LNP), other Security apparatuses as well as the Armed Forces of Liberia, should be deployed at the Palm Grove.  This will deter (frighten) any criminal minded persons from even attempting to go anywhere near the resting places of our Dear Departed.

Fourthly, the Monrovia City Corporation should create a permanent crew to clean up the cemetery on a daily basis and ensure that NO ONE dares place garbage anywhere near the Palm Grove.

Fifthly, City Hall’s team of street sweepers should also be deployed daily on the two streets—Center and Gurley—bordering the cemetery to keep them permanently clean.

Putting these measures immediately into place, we believe, would be a good beginning to restore dignity to our disrespected, forgotten Dead and, in the process, restore our own personal and national pride.

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