Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says he won’t mind being buried in a wicker basket or breadfruit wood coffin in protest against the increasing price of funerals in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Because funerals here in this country are getting too expensive. You give me an opportunity to talk about this. I don’t mind what the funeral people want to say about this and they say, ‘Ralph, your time will come just now’,” he told a press conference last Tuesday, while responding to a question about the differences between state and official funerals.
“I have given a task to someone to find out how much these wicker baskets … would cost. You know the sturdy wicker baskets or even stronger thing and you put a good base, to see the cost of it and if I can buy one and I put it aside to bury in,” the prime minister said.
“I want, even in death, to rebel against this ridiculous —
“… I don’t like to see money waste. And there are a lot of these funerals, people waste too much money. And the funeral parlours are just adding additional things for more and more money.
“… so you bury somebody, yo’ end in debt; serious debt.”
The prime minister said that the monies disbursed by the National Insurance Services and Bunpan (a friendly society) should be properly able to bury someone with ease.
“And if the wicker basket thing ain’t wukking properly, I have — unfortunately you don’t have as much breadfruit board as we used to have long ago. Because I wouldn’t mind get buried in a breadfruit board box. I wouldn’t want them to cut down a breadfruit tree just to get the lumber to bury me because people want breadfruit to eat. … and you drape it with a flag.
“That’s how we used to bury people in breadfruit board and cedar. And you die in the morning, by the afternoon you getting buried because they get the carpenter or carpenters in the villages, they come and make the box, you have a bottle ah strong rum and you have some boileen or you have some pelau and they make the box.”
“And yo cool, yo put that down in the hole,” he said, noting that according to Christian theology, by then the spirit has gone and only the body remains.
“You think they putting you in a nice box going down there, somehow it helps you with Saint Peter? Absolutely not!”
Gonsalves also spoke out against the practice, which has developed over the last 25 years, of having a feast after funeral, which he said has been adopted from the Untied States.
“Where this thing come from?” he said, adding that what he knows of is Nine- or Forty-night observation, where villagers would get together, sing hymns and have cocoa tea and some drinks, and eat some food and talk about the life of the deceased.
“Of course, there is a lot of hypocrisy at the 40 nights because you don’t speak anything bad in the village about the dead … But at least, it is part of the tradition, but, this American thing now, I don’t know where it come from,” he said.
It was suggested that this is all part of globalisation.
The prime minister said, “Yes, there is globalisation, our localisation must resist unwanted globalisation.”
The prime minister said his government does not put a cap on how much it spends on a state funeral.