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Memoirs of a time when I was Mayor of Chaguanas

suruj passportThe treatment of one’s ancestors and their memories often reflects the attention a person pays to his/her legacy, heritage and family traditions. In this regard the condition of our cemeteries and cremation facilities has always been a concern of mine , even since I was Chairman of he St Patrick County Council in 1987. At that time we built the Cremation facilities at Mosquito Creek. The facilities were named “Shanti Tiram” Shore of Peace, an appropriate name for two reasons. Firstly, the facility was located on the edge of the Gulf of Paria and secondly, the name was chosen so as to reduce the pain of separation from a loved one.

When I became Mayor of Chagaunas, cemeteries also became  a major concern for me. It pained me to see persons having to go into cemeteries with the grass as high as three and four feet, dilapidated roads and drains that were not cleaned for months.

I asked the Technical Dept.as to why this situation existed and was told that the cycle for cutting cemeteries was every three to four months. What a poor excuse! I asked whether the cemeteries could be cut every day. This was met with resistance. All kinds! I was told that it would mean breaking up the gangs, affecting the work schedules etc etc. What it showed in terms of the thinking was that thinking in alternatives was not and perhaps is still not a facet of local government. “This is how we do things, ” seemed to be the stock reply. The decision was taken to hire contract workers and place two each in every cemetery. The difference was even in two months. In addition a beautification programme was undertaken with hedges being planted, roads being paved and drains rebuilt. In addition a decision was taken to rename the cemeteries as “Gardens of Memories” This was done so as to create a paradigm with respect to thinking about one’s ancestors and loved ones. In addition the change in name was done so as to cause the public to give grater value to the aesthetics of the cemetery . I believe that some of  this has been achieved. People normally went to the cemeteries at the time of All Saints or All souls night. With clean cemeteries and a new way of thinking about the loved one who is buried in the cemetery, we have notice that persons are now paying more attention to the graves of  their loved ones and tombs; however not to the extent that we would desire.

We believe that one’s character is defined not only by how we live but also by how we treat the memories of our loved ones after death. WE had hoped that persons would plant shrubs and flowers on the graves and tombs of loved ones. For some reason this has not been achieved to the extent we would desire. Change does not come easy, especially behavioral changes. We have started with trying to change the minds of our Burgesses. Beliefs we believe drive behaviors!

Incidentally at the Hassarath Cemetery we planted 38 ornamental trees. Thirty were stolen within a week of having been planted.

Suruj Rambachan

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