(By Nazima Raghubir)
(Co-Director, Lyken’s Funeral Home, Dr Dawn Stewart gives the media a tour of the funeral home)
The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has discontinued using the Lyken Funeral Home to move bodies from crime and accident scenes following advise from the Central Board of Health. However, Co-Director of the Funeral Home Dr. Dawn Stewart is claiming that the board was vindictive and is considering legal action to resume the decades-old contract.
“My Attorney is Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and he has already issued a letter to the Attorney General in reference to this matter. He penned the letter on July 29, 2021,” the Funeral Director said on Tuesday.
She said it was only a couple of weeks ago she learned of the decision to terminate the contract without any prior notice to her business.
Some of the issues raised, the woman said, include the lack of a second refrigerator to store decomposed bodies along with default on payments to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). She presented several documents showing that she is compliant with both the GRA and NIS.
While Dr. Stewart has debunked claims of her business owing the GRA and NIS, she argued that there is no requirement for a second freezer for decomposed bodies in any law governing funeral homes or public health.
“We are the oldest funeral home in Guyana, 100 years next year, and we have been picking up remains from that time onward and we have conducted our operations in accordance with the laws of Guyana to the satisfaction of our customer, i.e. the GPF,” the businesswoman stated.
“From the time someone dies, their body starts to decompose so at what point do you call it decomposition,” she further argued.
The Newburg/Lyken’s Funeral Home
The funeral Director outlined that her business has in the past picked up bodies from gruesome killings including the Lusignan Massacre, the Bartica Massacre, the Lindo Creek Massacre and the Jim Jones Massacre.
In the case of Lindo Creek, the bodies had to be stored for five years.
Lyken Funeral Home has been working with the police since its inception in 1954. Dr. Stewart finds it strange that the contract is now being taken away and is claiming vindictiveness from the Secretary to the board.
“I find it very discriminatory,” to have the contract terminated, she said.
“This is personal against Lyken,” she added since the business was passed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Guyana Fire Service (GFS).
According to her, the police also owe Lyken in excess of $35M.
When approached for a comment, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony indicated that the Government has not ruled out using the services of the parlor.
He noted that despite what is said, the business has been engaged in discussions since 2014, “There has been an issue going back for a number of years, I think 2014, where the Central Board of Health would’ve cited Lyken funeral parlor for a number of infractions and they would have sent them repeated warnings and unfortunately, they haven’t corrected it,” he said.
He added that “from the ministry side, we are really anxious to resolve these matters but there are standards you have to meet.”