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Lee Sing starts chiselling of cemetery wall (with CNC3 video)
A driver honked his horn in approval and shouted “well done, man” yesterday morning as Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing chiselled away the mortar on the wall of the Lapeyrouse Cemetery on Tragarete Road, Port-of-Spain. The mayor was making good on his promise to remove the plastering on the wall. The wall, which is almost 200 years old, is made of Laventille limestones.
“Let’s see if we could get a good hour here,” he told burgesses who offered to help. Lee Sing said he did not know who had decided to plaster the wall of the historic cemetery, where the oldest grave is dated 1813 and where famous Trinidadian painter Michel Jean Cazabon who died in 1888, is buried.
The tomb of Lady Harris, wife of the third Lord Harris, an 1840s governor, is also in the cemetery, as well as a Jewish burial area. “I was in China. When I came back and saw it (the plastering), I went crazy,” the mayor told reporters at a press conference on the pavement.
“I don’t understand why it was done. It was quite shocking,” he added. He was accompanied by deputy mayor Keron Valentine and Geoffrey MacLean and Judi Sheppard, of Citizens for Conservation (CFC), who had been partnering with the corporation to rehabilitate the cemetery and restore it as a living museum.
Lee Sing said: “It’s so much of a memory box. The CFC has worked to restore the Cazabon grave. Inside the cemetery is untold history. “We are not about stunting. We are not about grandstanding. It’s about the challenges we have in dealing with an administration bent on doing things its way.”
He read a letter he wrote recently to the CEO of the Port-of-Spain Corporation Winifred David demanding some answers about the plastering of the wall. He asked David who gave instructions to plaster the wall and where the financial allocation came from and told her he wanted a response by today, he said.
Work on the wall stopped after his letter but the plastering still was not removed, the mayor said. He added: “Nobody seems to know who authorised the plastering of the wall or where the allocation came from. “It’s Chanka David, city engineer with the corporation, who should be held responsible but the buck stops with the CEO.”
He said he also held himself responsible. “I will not stop until I get to the bottom of this,” he added. He proposed to see for himself whether he could restore the wall without serious intervention from an engineering person. “I told them (helpers) to walk with two chipping hammers and two chisels. It is not impossible,” the mayor added.
MacLean added: “This is what we intend to do, yes, to be able to return the wall to its original state. “Anything too severe in terms of breaking it down might damage the stonework. It has to be done by hand literally.” He said the work might take at least a couple of weeks.
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