By Bejay Browne
A NEW cemetery for Tala village in Paphos is up and running after a three year fight by expats who were concerned that the few remaining burial plots in the village’s old cemetery seemed to be reserved for Greek Cypriot villagers only.
The move comes after pressure by local officials and residents spurred Archbishop Chrysostomos to intervene and ensure permission was finally granted in a record three and a half weeks.
The first funeral of a British expat at the new cemetery took place on Saturday, following a rush to prepare the area, according to Tala councillor, John Moffat.
Moffat, along with others member of the local community board, has been pushing for the new cemetery for the last three and a half years. He welcomed the move, saying that the completion of phase one of the project would see 173 plots being made available.
“The first phase was financed from the 2014, €20 cemetery tax, and phase two, which involves laying tarmac, parking facilities and some form of shelter from the elements, will hopefully be completed this year and funded from 2015’s €20 cemetery tax,” he said.
After that, it’s hoped that the cemetery will be self-financing, and from 2016 onwards, a tax of €5 per household per annum may be levied to cover maintenance of the cemetery and plots.
Local residents Yvonne and Peter Scarborough have lived in Tala for eleven years and have been instrumental in ensuring that the new cemetery finally got the go ahead.
After speaking with Moffat, they contacted the British High Commission in Nicosia and the Archbishop of Cyprus to try and resolve the problems relating to expat burials in Cyprus.
“We were incensed that [a British expat resident] was refused the right to be buried in Tala, and this sort of discrimination shouldn’t happen in Cyprus,” said Yvonne Scarborough. “We sent an email to the Archbishop’s legal advisor highlighting that this move was a blatant discrimination against Christians.”
She said that the subject is of particular concern to her as her husband is undergoing treatment for cancer.
The couple were invited to attend the Archbishop’s home in Tala for a meeting where he promised to speed up the process and ensure the new cemetery had all the necessary paperwork.
“We spoke about the problems relating to the old cemetery; how the plots seem to be earmarked only for local Cypriot residents and not for others. He promised to look into the issue, but in the meantime promised to ensure the new one opened, and he has.”
Scarborough said it only took three and a half weeks for everything to go through, following three and a half years of officials previously trying to gain the green light.
The new cemetery is not ideal. For example, it is around 2.5 km from the new Tala church and can be reached only along winding back roads. The site also looks rather exposed, but Moffat said there are plans to make it more appealing.
Overall, however, the new cemetery will mean a vast improvement to a system that includes discriminatory two tier pricing and selective access to plots, he said.
“The new facility is a major step forward in the face of bitter opposition,” he said.
The local councillor added that phase three of the new cemetery will get underway at some point in the future and will be financed using the accumulated funds from the sale of plots which cost between 850 and 900 euros. This will allow an extension to the available land, resulting in a total capacity of 663 graves.
Vice consul at the British High Commission in Nicosia, Christine Smith said: “We are pleased that one of the problems relating to cemeteries in Cyprus has been resolved.”