The body of former president Professor George Maxwell Richards will be cremated after a State funeral next Wednesday— January 17—at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain and there is word that the ashes will be scattered in San Fernando where Richards was born and grew up.
Richards, the fourth President of this country, will be the first local President to be cremated.
A round-table of the planning committee organising the State funeral of the former president met at the Ministry of National Security for almost two hours yesterday when it was agreed that condolence books will be opened at key points across the country to allow citizens to pay their final respects to a man who touched the hearts of the people of the country with his humility.
While the details of where the books will be placed have not been finalised, Communications Manager at the Ministry of National Security Marcia Hope said two locations agreed upon so far are the Office of the President and the NAPA, where the Richards’ body will lie in State.
Former head of protocol at the Office of the President Lenore Dorset represented the family at the meeting which was attended by key technocrats and officials of the Ministries of National Security, Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Prime Minister.
Representatives from NAPA, the Immigration Department and Belgroves Funeral Home, which is handling the funeral, also attended along with officials from the Fire Service, the Defence Force and the Police Service. A representative from the Anglican Church also attended. Richards and his family are Anglican.
Hope said, “All the ministries and respective agencies that have a role to play in the funeral met to discuss how we will proceed and who will do what.” She said they will be meeting on a “regular basis to fine tune all the arrangements.”
Hope said during yesterday’s meeting several ideas were discussed, “but those are in discussions, we need to meet again in smaller groups to discuss what could work and what can’t,” she said.
Asked about the cremation she said it was a “request from the family.”
George Maxwell Richards served the country in the capacity of President for a decade between 2003-2013. He died last Monday evening at the WestShore Private Hospital.
There is no decision yet whether the body will also lie in State at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando, the birth city of the former president or at UWI where he served for many years.
Hope explained that Immigration officials were part of the planning because it is expected that a number of people from overseas will attend the funeral.
The military will stage a parade at the funeral and salute the former Commander in Chief of the armed forces and as is customary at a State funeral there will be a 21 gun salute.
Another meeting of the committee is planned for tomorrow when Hope said it is expected that further discussions and decisions will be taken.