New grave layout

The new layout to be used at the Eratap Cemetery. Slab is able to cater to 23 graves each side.

Over VT8 Million has been raised by the Port Vila City Council (PVCC) last year, as revenue for burial costs.

These funds were collected from different burial rates for adults and children, which vary according to weekdays, weekends, or Public Holidays.

Town Clerk Peter Sakita said the death records showed an increase in the last 5 years.

Recently, the PVCC issued a 30-days notice informing the public of its plan to reuse unmarked graves and reclaim the graves.

A Cemetery caretaker, Thomas Tao states that the 1960-1970 graves are mostly foreign-owned and have not been visited or tended to, since the burials.

Mr. Tao said, “We are not too fond of the idea of digging and replacing used grave spaces, because it is against our religious beliefs and a taboo by our culture.”

Vanuatu is a nation with custom as one of its founding pillars, opinions are often based on cultural knowledge hence customary leaders are not very welcoming of the idea of reusing gravesites.

The Malvatumauri Interim Secretary under the Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture Cector, John Steven Huri, opposed this idea by affirming the cultural significance of a resting place, considering it to be taboo. He also mentioned the vitality of a grave inside a cemetery.

Mr. Huri said custom has to be considered if the decision of reusing unmarked graves is to be implemented. “On Pentecost, due to Sea level rise, certain graves close to the coast have to be moved. Locals dug up the graves near shore, after a small cultural ceremony performed, and are reburied on much higher grounds, to protect the remains of the deceased” said Mr.Huri .

Tao stated that the cemetery workers are aware that a new cemetery is to be established at Eratap, but are unaware of when it will be complete and ready. For the time being, a new layout for burials is being trialed at the current cemetery, which consists of slabs, that caters up to at least 46 gravestones each. This new system provides a spacious and much more organized layout for the cemetery.

The current decision to reuse unmarked graves has forced the caretakers to close off roads and other vehicle tracks, that runs in between graves, leaving only the main road into the cemetery.

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