San Fernando mayor promises security at cemetery as Stalin’s grave vandalised

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A vandalized tombstone where the late Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste was laid to rest at Paradise cemetery in San Fernando on January 5. Photo by Marvin Hamilton

San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello has apologised to the family of the late calypso icon Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste, whose gravesite was vandalised on Friday afternoon and overnight, saying the incidents are “extremely sad and unfortunate.”

Regrello visited the site at Paradise Cemetery in San Fernando on Saturday morning and pledged to protect the city.

“We have a responsibility to protect the city, and we will do what we have to do,” he said.

Calliste, 81, was buried on January 5 after a Carnival-like street procession and a musical tribute at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando.

The five-time calypso monarch died on December 28. In 1987, he received the hummingbird medal (silver) at the National Awards ceremony for his contributions to culture.

Reports are at around 1. 30 pm on Friday, someone used a metal police sign to clear the gravel used to form a mound over Calliste’s grave.

The flowers, a crown, and other decorative items were also scattered. The person responsible for the act is believed to be homeless.

“We are here to try to find a solution to this problem. We were informed yesterday that the grave was interfered with. Lo and behold, this morning, further damage was done. There are faeces and a dead iguana on the grave, and the mound is totally destroyed,” Regrello said.

Regrello said the cemetery is very active at night, with “nefarious and nocturnal activities.”

“You can add it up and get an idea of what I am talking about. The dead cannot rest in peace!” Regrello said.

He was accompanied by Les Efforts East /Cipero councillor Ryaad Hosein, who is also the chairman of the parks and institutions at the San Fernando City Corporations (SFCC) as well as municipal police officers.

Regrello said preventative measures are being put in place and a task force is being set up, including municipal and regular police and officers assigned to the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA).

He referred to the displaced people who frequent the nearby Harris Promenade as “pests to society.”

Regrello cited the ongoing beautification project on the promenade and accused them of stealing some of the plants.

“They have been stealing flowers from graves both here and at the Roodal Cemetery for a while now. These homeless people steal these flowers and sell them on the streets,” Regrello said.

“So people are buying roses and have no idea they were stolen from a grave. And we are heading to February 14.”

The mayor said many are drug addicts and people with severe mental health problems who do not want to be in a controlled environment.

He said San Fernando has two centres for socially displaced people, Court Shamrock at Rushworth Street Extension and Centre for Displaced Persons at Lady Hailes Avenue.

But they do not want to stay there. He estimated that about 40 to 50 socially displaced people are on the promenade daily.

“These people who assemble on the promenade basically for meals. The public continues to feed them three and four times a day. In between meals, they find things to do. As the saying goes, the devil finds work for idle hands,” Regrello said.

San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello and councillor for Les Efforts East/Cipero Ryaad Hosein inspect the vandalized tombstone on Saturday morning where the late Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste was laid to rest at Paradise cemetery in San Fernando on January 5. Photo by Marvin Hamilton

“So in between meals, they become a pest to society, they are destructive, and these are the things they are doing. We have to put a stop to this. They assemble because San Fernando people are very generous. But at the same time, it comes with a cost.”

Regrello said some displaced people often “expose themselves” to schoolchildren.

“They also have little spats every now and again, throwing missiles at each other. The day a bottle misses and hits a child, then we will hear how serious it is and (questions about) what the mayor did about this,” he said.

Regrello once again called on the public to stop giving food to the displaced people on the promenade.

“Redirect your contributions and go to Court Shamrock and the centre on King’s Wharf. The people there would appreciate it.”