24.1 C
Saturday, September 23, 2023
HomeNewsLocal NewsThree Cameroonian bodies on SKN cremated without families’ consent

Three Cameroonian bodies on SKN cremated without families’ consent


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The Cameroonian saga of the Federation continues as the ball was seemingly dropped in the handling of the bodies of the three deceased Cameroon Nationals, Derick Anga Azia, Verdo Mofor, and Zeta Bertrand -two men and one woman – that have been here since they were recovered from the sea on March 28, 2023.

In previous statements, Prime Minister Terrance Drew shared that the three bodies were expected to be buried according to their customs if families were not found and they could not be repatriated to their homeland.

WINN understands that the three bodies were cremated on June 28, three months after they were recovered from the ocean and that the news has caused public scrutiny.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Cromwell Henry spoke with WINN about what exactly led to the three bodies being cremated by the Liamuiga Funeral Home.

According to the Deputy Commissioner, the cremation boils down to miscommunication between the parties involved – The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the RSCNPF, the Deputy Commissioner, the Saddler Funeral Home and the Department of Social Services.

While the Police and Social Services were busy trying to find the families of the deceased individuals, the CID was dealing with a complaint by the funeral home concerning the three bodies, which led to the cremation occurring without notifying the families of the three Cameroonians.

According to Deputy Commissioner Henry, the government has already spent nearly $40,000 of the National Security Budget on the deceased migrants, and the families of the three deceased have requested that the police repatriate the ashes to Cameroon.

“We had a big bill for storage and still have to bear the cost of a burial then I guess that was the factor to cause them to just opt to go for cremation. But the CID were not aware that we were planning something else, [so] it was just a breakdown in communication resulting in [the cremation]. Then it [appeared] to the people that we fool them. But there was no intention to fool them, or there was no fooling; it’s just that things went the way they went. But what I would say [is], I think we have been very gracious to these people; we treat them with [the] utmost respect. Of course, the cremation was done in the usual way that you would cremate even local [people]. And it was a tremendous cost to us. We had to use all that money from our budget that we have to fight crime.”

Henry continued, “Our citizens were placed… at a disadvantage by having less money to fight crime in order for us to take care of these people. So we share our budget that we have to fight crime for the year to take care of these [people]. The funeral alone – those three bodies alone cost us almost $40,000 for storage and [cremation] – over $40,000 – and that is just for those three bodies, that has nothing to do with the 14 we have to feed every day. It costs over $100,000 – well over $100,000 – and we are still spending. And so I think that we have been very gracious to them. We treat them the best way that we can, and we feel bad that it would have to end that way. But it was not intended, and there was no intention to snide them in any way cause we were working with them from the beginning – it’s just that it went bad, and I explained that to them.”

The fate of the 14 currently rests with the United Nations as applications are being filed to be recognised as refugees in the United States. Until then, they are being taken care of by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, specifically from the National Security Budget.

“They have applied to the United Nations for refugee status – to be considered in the US as refugees – so the United Nations is currently reviewing their application. They [asked] the government to host them for the next three months – that was about a month ago – while they process their applications. They were given temporary refugee status, so we are [hosting] them here…They are not in custody per se; they are free to move about in the country and do whatever they wish within the law, of course. We are paying for their accommodations. We’re paying their utilities – electricity, water, internet and the rent for the apartment building they are living in.”

The resurgence of the fate of the Cameroonians came about when the sister and mother of one of the deceased spoke on Phoenix Free Press hosted by Nikki Phoenix out of Antigua and Barbuda on July 22.

“Your brother left to fight for the family, and then she heard that he died on the road. She didn’t see a dead body. The commissioner [wants] us to get all the family members, and she also asked for them to send the picture to see your brother. On Tuesday, July 18, we were told that the bodies were already burnt and they kept the ashes. And your mom said we don’t do ashes because we bury our bodies in the ground and [are] not used to that kind of thing,” said Nikki Phoenix, clarifying what the mother of one of the deceased men said during the interview.

The sister, identified as Nkanka during the interview, explained that she was in constant communication with the Deputy Commissioner of Police in St. Kitts, who promised to deal with the body of her brother in the ways of their custom.

“It is very painful, and it is difficult to just believe that somebody will leave healthy and strong, and then you just hear that the person is dead, and then you just accept it. You [haven’t] even seen the grave of that person. You [haven’t] seen the lifeless body, nothing. The commissioner was like, “I will do everything possible.” That is what the commissioner was telling me… The bodies were cremated on the 28th, as he told me, he was the one who told me that on Tuesday [July 18]… I never thought of it, so I was so bitter I was like, commissioner, what was the extent of getting to the family members, waiting on the families – I had to go a long way trying to get to the other family members so that they can give them a fitting burial as he promised. He said that they would be o Zoom… and we will follow as a family here. We will gather together as a family; we will follow the burial together. The last time we spoke on the phone…he told us that.”

Nkanka added, “But now… I wrote him on Tuesday morning early – [5 a.m.] – “Commissioner, it has been a while.” Mister Commissioner replied [to] me that same Tuesday 5 p.m. in the evening and… was like, “The body has been cremated, I was not aware, I was so busy with”… I was confused, and I say, “cremated, when was that?”… my spirit [kept] telling me to ask him. Get to know about the day. When did this happen?… I say, “Commissioner, I want to know the exact day that this thing happen. The commissioner told me it was on June 28.”

Nkanka continued to question the intention behind the action taken here on St. Kitts and Nevis regarding the body of her brother, expressing that based on conversations with the commissioner, she and her family could not understand how her brother’s body could be cremated given the conversation she had previously explaining all the burial customs she shared and what she said was a promise by the Police here to life-stream the burial.

The host of Phoenix Free Press then went on to share her interactions with the Deputy Commissioner here in St. Kitts and Nevis about the situation.

“After all the work and communication and locating the families etc. The bodies had been cremated without the said family being notified or even sending a message to me/us… I said, “I’ve been trying to reach you, sir, and you have not been responding”. I said, “I am not sure why this has taken the turn it did, but the family is even more broken by these actions, and we/I must find a way to get them some answers. I am not clear what transpired, and we must get to the bottom of it respectfully, Nikki Phoenix”. I said; additionally, we’re not even clear when these bodies were cremated. And then you said to me that he said the bodies were cremated on June 28. But we spoke to the commissioner on June 27. So I sent him that, and then he responded to me, and he said, “Hi, Nikki, I understand the frustration here, and I must apologise for the breakdown. While I was making arrangements through the Social Services Department, the investigators made other arrangements because the funeral home was anxious to get the bodies out because of their condition. So by the time I was ready, the bodies had already been cremated.”

The families of the two deceased males have been identified; however, the deceased female remains unclaimed by her family in Cameroon.

More on this as information becomes available.


Most Popular

Contact a Program
If you are interested in a program or advertising, send us a message.
Send Message
Signup for our Newsletter
We'll only be in touch when we've something exciting to share.
We never share your details
No thanks