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By Moana Moeka'a

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (April 19, 2002 -- Cook Islands News)---The traditional burying of bodies could slowly give way to cremations when the new Public Health bill becomes law.

The draft bill paves the way for the Queen's Representative, by Order in Executive Council, to make regulations to have cremations take place in the Cook Islands.

"In terms of the sensitivity on cremations, it's a real paradigm shift of thinking," says Health secretary Tupu Araiti.

"Instead of burying the body, you're burning the body.

"So there's that sensitive issue that customs and practices and traditional ways that we have, have to be considered at this new way of handling a loved one when they die."

Cook Islands Christian Church president Rev. Tangimetua Tangatatutai personally believes it is really up to the individual to decide as to how he or she wants to be interred.

However, he can see the practicalities of those who choose to be cremated, especially in terms of expense, and in the case of the Cook Islands – the shortage of land.

Rev. Tangatatutai says he personally knows of Cook Islanders living overseas who have been cremated, or have had their ashes returned to the homeland.

Bishop Stuart O'Connell says the official Catholic position is that while a burial in the ground is more fitting, the church does conduct services for cremations.

"However, these days it's not always practical to have burials, especially in the cities.

"There was a time when cremations were not accepted, but these days we have to be practical. So, yes, we do do services for cremations."

Clause 119 of the bill allows that the Crown or a church, or any other organization that is the custodian of a denominational cemetery, may, subject to such regulations, erect a crematorium either within or outside the boundaries of the cemetery. The site plans and specifications must be approved by the Minister of Health.

Provision is made to ensure that there is a timely burial or cremation of bodies within prescribed time limits, although these times do provide for an exception when a body has to be transported to another place.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online. 

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