Wed, Dec 17, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Officials argue over sea burials

LAST WISHES Funeralgoers were caught between the governments of Taipei City and Taipei County, who disputed where Taiwan's first sea burial should take place

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The governments of Taipei City and Taipei County yesterday exchanged accusations about the chaos surrounding Taiwan's first ever sea burial service, which took place on Monday night.

Ku Yen-ling (顧燕翎), head of the city government's Bureau of Social Welfare, said they were upset that the county government had hampered the funeral service by putting pressure on the owner of the fishing boats who had promised to take the ashes out to sea.

The burial at sea was supposed to be held on Monday morning about 6km from Taipei County's Sanchi Township, but funeralgoers were left stranded after county government officials said that they had not yet decided on where sea burials could be legally performed. They also said that the boats did not meet safety regulations.

The families who brought their loved ones' ashes to participate in the service were disappointed about the officials' interference.

Huang Meng-king (黃滿金), one of the family members who took part in the ceremony, said the service had to be carried out on Monday, because they were afraid that the flour they had mixed with their father's ashes to feed the fish would start to go bad.

"We don't care about the political issues. We just want to follow my father's wishes," Huang said.

After negotiating with the county government and the ship owners, the service was finally held offshore from Yehliu (野柳) at about 6pm.

"I think the Taipei County Government just found fault with us on purpose. We feel we encountered unnecessary obstacles set by the county government," Ku said yesterday at a news conference.

The county government's Bu-reau Director of Civil Affairs Chang Hung-lu (張宏陸) said yesterday that the county government's stance regarding the issue has not changed since this November, when the city government first sought cooperation with the county government on sea burials.

"We do not oppose the sea burials. On the contrary, we think it is a good alternative that meets the concept of environmental protection, since Taiwan has limited land resources," Chang said.

"But currently the relevant laws are incomplete and many issues must still be settled, such as the problems of safety and the preservation of fishery resources," he said.

He said he did not understand why the city government insisted on holding the service, since the county government has clearly expressed its position.

According to Chang the county will complete its regulations on burials at sea by March.

Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) also supports the idea of sea burials and said the county officials could improve communications with the city's officials.

"I hope our public officials could serve our people and that they will have the courage to solve their problems," Su said.

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