Trinidad and Tobago: Highest COVID death rate while ban on open-air cremations remains
Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 31st in the world for the highest Covid-19 mortality, and has the highest death rate per capita in the Caribbean, according to John Hopkins University. Since the start of the pandemic from March 2020 to January 2021, nearly three thousand people have died (2954) in a twin island of 1.3 million.
This high death rate occurred in spite of rigorous international transportation policies which halted foreign travel from March 2020 to August 2021, and still bombard travellers with a bureaucratic travel pass, PCR stress and long airport lines. Besides nationals and international travellers abroad, government policies have also neglected the Hindu community of Trinidad, who has been lobbying for open-air cremations. Hindus are still forced to pay as high as US$5,000 to cremate their loved ones who died from COVID, and also have to wait weeks before they are provided a date at overbooked crematoriums.
According to Chapter 10 of the Garuda Purana, the Hindu epistle of death, it is imperative that the body of a departing soul be sacrificed in an open-air pyre. Now, families are waiting at least three weeks to perform the Antyesthi Samskara, the last sacraments in a person’s life, at great financial burden, if they are accommodated at all at the funeral home’s crematorium. Hindu Minister of Works, Rohan Sinanan, and Independent Hindu Senator of Silence, Deoroop Teemal (Vice President of the Divali Nagar), have supported the Afro-Christian dominated PNM Government to inflict more pain and expense on Hindus in sorrow and misery. Worse is Dr. Roshan Akash Parasram, the CMO (Chief Medical Officer), who is from a generational family of pundits from Couva. So too have Independent Senators Amrita Deonarine and Varma Deyalsingh. The self-serving Sinanan, Teemal and Parasram should be more so ashamed to call themselves Hindu, and speak at any Hindu forum, now, in the future, and for eternity.
As a result of these discriminatory regulations, former Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan, SC, on behalf of his client, Cindy Ann Ramsarop Persad, won a judicial review case against government’s decision to ban open-air cremations. Ramsaroop-Persad is also represented by attorneys Jayanti Lutchmedial, Vishaal Siewsaran, Renuka Rambhajan, Natasha Bisram, Ganesh Saroop and Cheyenne Lugo. In an oral decision, Justices of Appeal Gregory Smith, Mark Mohammed and Ronnie Boodoosingh allowed the appeal of Cindy-Ann Ramsaroop-Persad and granted her leave to file a claim for judicial review against the open-air pyre cremations.
In Ramlogan’s words, “The question here is, was the Minister of Health [Terrence Deyalsingh] acting in a fair manner. Covid19 cases, at present, are going up and there was/is no scientific or medical justification for the ban.” He said a more proportional response would be to allow further numerical restrictions or more distancing from the pyres, rather than an outright ban to open-air pyre cremations, especially since in these cases, the caskets remain sealed.”
In delivering the judgment, Justice of Appeal Boodoosingh noted that Ramsaroop had filed expert evidence from international specialist T&T epidemiologist, Dr Farley Cleghorn, who indicated there was no medical or scientific justification for the blanket ban on open-air cremations. According to Cleghorn’s report, the Government’s policy on using only closed indoor crematoriums actually increased the risk of contraction of the virus in an indoor closed setting. The Appeal Court further noted that World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines did not impose any prohibition against open-air cremations for Covid-19 victims.
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