The Cayman Islands government is negotiating a $600,000 deal to buy beachfront land for a new cemetery in Bodden Town.
Plans have been submitted for phase one of the project on land adjacent to the Bodden Town Civic Centre, close to the existing cemetery.
The sale was still being finalised this week, but Cabinet Minister Mark Scotland, a legislator for Bodden Town, said Cabinet had approved the purchase and the cemetery project would go ahead, pending planning approval.
The opposition People’s Progressive Movement party welcomed the news, but suggested the timing of the announcement, weeks before the general election, was politically motivated.
Minister Scotland said government got a “good deal” on the 3.75 acre site, which includes some beach side space as well as a significant portion of land on the opposite side of Bodden Town Road.
A separate deal to buy new land for another cemetery in West Bay is also in the works, Mr. Scotland said. That project has not yet reached the planning stage.
The Cayman Islands is facing a chronic shortage of burial plots with both the Bodden Town and West Bay cemeteries at or near capacity.
“What we have done by acquiring this site is to ensure that we continue to have the ability to have affordable burial plots available for residents in Bodden Town,” Mr. Scotland said.
He denied that the announcement – one of the last actions of the ruling government – was conveniently timed for the re-election campaigns of himself and fellow Cabinet Minister Dwayne Seymour in the Bodden Town district.
“This is something we have said we were going to do for four years,” he said. “We wanted to try and do it on existing government land but we weren’t able to achieve that.
“We would have loved to have it done earlier. The timing is irrelevant, it should have been done a lot earlier.”
Mr. Seymour added: “It is definitely a proud time for me as a Bodden town rep. This was required for so long and former elected members didn’t think it was a priority, even after being warned about the lack of space at the site.
“I am happy to be the representative who saw it necessary to get this done for the people of Bodden Town so their loved ones are not now buried in Prospect.”
Alva Suckoo, a candidate for the Progressives in Bodden Town during the forthcoming election, said: “I’m happy to see that this is happening, I just wish they had done it sooner.
“It does seem a huge coincidence that right after we marked that down as one of our district goals for Bodden Town we see some action. We do need more cemetery space for Bodden Town, so we are happy to see it done.”
The move would appear to nix a separate proposal from Churchill’s Funeral Home for a new centrally-located private cemetery.
Winston Churchill Solomon, owner of the funeral home, said in February that he was looking to buy land for a new cemetery. But he said it would not make financial sense if he had to compete with new government subsidised cemeteries, paid for through the public purse.
Mr. Scotland said he thought the Churchill plan was a good one. But he argued government funded cemeteries allowed people to buy burial plots at a very low cost.
“This gives us a huge parcel of land for the cemetery as well as beach side property. It is a good deal.”