Drama and sorrow characterized the entire atmosphere in Barnesville Township, Kpan Town and Dixville communities, respectively when residents gathered in protest at the Evening Rest Funeral Home last Friday (October 11, 2013) and demanded the release of a dead body taken there for embalming.
The protesters, including women, men, youths and elders of the three communities overwhelmed the proprietor of the funeral home identified as Jammel Mulbah, which led to the intervention of the Liberia National Police to calm the tension.
While the daughter and other family members of the corps were in tears, the protesting residents sang and danced anti-funeral songs, saying, “We don’t want a funeral home; we don’t want to die; we want school, hospital and hand pump.”
They had earlier vehemently protested the operation of the newly established funeral home in their area, stressing that proprietor Jammel Mulbah, who is said to be a native doctor, shouldn’t be allowed to operate the facility in their community.
A female resident, Ma Henrietta Kennedy, said the location of the funeral home is worrisome as it could pose serious health danger to the community, which does not have running water or something to stop pollution.
“We as women in these communities will not sit here and see this funeral home carry on operation because we have many little children that can’t sit down one place, and we know what can happen when funeral home is somewhere; pretty soon some people will be praying for us to die in this community; when they have the money let them build schools or hospital than to build funeral home,” she narrated.
However, when this paper arrived on the scene, a lady, who claimed to be the daughter of the deceased, said it was the worst day in her live to watch the body of her mother, who she loved so much being treated like a thief.
She pointed that her mother had suffered for a very long time in hospital, and she did everything possible in making sure that she would have recovered, but unfortunately, did not survive.
“And now here is her body being treated like one rouge, carrying her from one place to another; Is this how my mother should be treated?”, she lamented.
But the chairperson of women in the communities, Ma Henrietta Kennedy, said, upon the arrival of the body, the daughter was advised to take her mother’s body to another funeral, but she refused to listen to the advice and insisted that she had already made arrangement with the owner of the funeral home.
Ma Henrietta said women of the communities will go to any level to make show that the Evening Rest Funeral Home does not operate, until the Government of Liberia intervenes.
When this paper contacted proprietor Jammel Mulbah, he declined to comment on the matter, threatening to take legal action against any journalist that interferes in his business.
A male resident, Zazay Johnson, had told The NewDawn that it is against the law for a doctor to operate a funeral home, saying, “How can a doctor, who treats someone for US$20 dollar wants to embalm body for L$25,000? In your own mind, which one of them will he focus on? He will end up killing people to take the embalmment contract.”
Zazay disclosed that upon the initial opening of the funeral home unknown to the residents, three dead bodies were allegedly taken there, polluting the entire community, adding that they immediately alarmed government and the home was order closed, but to their utmost surprise, Jammel Mulbah returned to the community with some Nigerians to reopen the funeral parlors with documents from the Environmental Protection Agency.
An elder of the community, Robert H. Pyne, said in line with EPA guidelines, a person operating funeral home should have two and a half acres of land and a 90 feet pipe far from residential areas, adding, “The EPA did not follow their guidelines so we believe that bribe was taking from the owner of this funeral home and this is human life they are playing with.”
The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that six months ago it issued a permit to the Little Rest Funeral Home to operate in the community, and since then there has been no complaint from residents there.
An Environmental Permit issued to the funeral home by the Executive Director of the Environmental Agency Anyaa Vohiri on July 24, 2013 partly reads, “In pursuance of the Environment Protection & Management Law of Liberia, 2003 part III Sections 8 (1), 11(1) 13 and on the basis of the submitted Environmental Management Plan (EMP), this permit is issued, authorizing Little Rest Funeral Home to operate a funeral home in Kpahn Town, Barnersville Township.”
The permit however, requires the management of the funeral home to meet general measures, including provision of appropriate waste disposal facilities; submit material safety data sheets for all chemicals used and make every effort to limit the toxicity of chemical used and amount of waste produced as well as ensure that septic tank in use for the disposal of embalming and sanitary fluids is currently operated and regularly maintained, among others.