The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

The freedom to choose: cremation is everyone’s right

Sunday, 17 March 2019, 09:06 Last update: about 4 months ago

Rosianne Cutajar MP

A government is only as good as the sensitivity it shows towards the needs and aspirations of its people. The Act to legalise and regulate cremation in Malta is an important milestone in our effort to provide full and quality access to civil rights and liberties for our citizens. As we drafted the Act, our priorities were threefold: making the choice of cremation available to everyone, ensuring total freedom for the person to choose to be cremated regardless of culture, religion or social background, and ensuring that cremation in Malta is both an environmental measure and a sustainable one.


What happens with our bodies and those of our beloved ones after we pass away is an important issue for many. The latest research shows that up to a third of Malta's population today would like to have other choices available to them than that of traditional burial. As with other issues of a delicate nature that we have provided for in the past, the right to cremation will be introduced not only as a civil right, but one that respects our social beliefs as a government.

While this Act contemplates an alternative choice for those who do not feel comfortable with a burial process, cremation will at the same time offer a cheaper, dignified option to those in our society for whom burial in a grave or buying a grave of their own may be beyond their means.

Introducing cremation is another step forward in achieving more equality for all in our society. It makes sense to those who wish to have a ceremony without references to religion when they pass away, but it also makes sense to those who wish to be cremated with respect to their faith. The Church, for instance, accepts cremation as long as the remains are kept in a sacred space, either within the cemetery, or a chapel or church.

Our commitment to introduce cremation as an environmental measure is at the heart of the new Act. In itself, cremation is space-effective: its introduction will help cut down on the substantial amount of space, and therefore of land, that is taken up by traditional graves.

But beyond that, we are also considering options such as Tree Cremation - a very popular choice for many people in other countries. This is a process in which the human ashes are mixed with earth, and a tree is planted to mark the person's memory.

And we are also exploring the latest cremation technology, such as bio-cremation, a method which is not only sustainable to the environment, but has other benefits that include a very high level of hygiene and an effective cremation procedure.

Last but not least, I want to emphasise that we are all ears on this Act. We want to know your views on what role Government should have in the cremation industry - should Government consider the option of a partnership between the public and the private sectors so that the service is jointly offered? And would you agree that a Register of Cremations be drawn up, by which people can register their wish to be cremated after they pass away? Also, should a DNA sample of the cremated person be stored for a definite period of time in order to take care of issues that may arise after demise?

The public consultation process on the Cremation Act is open till the end of March 2019. If it goes through, this last policy will be an important step ahead for our country, a first for an EU member-state, setting new standards in terms of how cremation is conducted within the European Union.

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