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Going around in depressing circles

Friday, February 23, 2018

Wherever you go in Trinidad and Tobago today, people are openly expressing their dissatisfaction with the overall governance of our country. Whether it is crime, the economy, the healthcare system, the country’s infrastructure, the education system, corruption and/or wanton wastage, people are fed up and it’s not hard to see why. It is because at almost every recent national election, every time voters hit the reset button, hoping for change and a new beginning, they’ve come to realise that all they actually did was press the replay button.

Back in 2005, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) under the then PNM Government bulldozed lands from Curepe to the back of North Valsayn to pave the way for the construction of the East Grove Valsayn housing development. Farmers, agriculturists, residents and the UNC Opposition protested, because the lands are part of the alluvial plains of Trinidad which contain the very best agricultural soil on the island. The plants and seedling from these bulldozed lands were sold at the St Augustine Nurseries to farmers and gardeners alike.

In any event the protests fell on deaf ears and the East Grove project went ahead. By the time it was completed and units ready to be handed out, the PP was in office, which now claimed the project as its own and gleefully handed out keys to HDC applicants with every handing out ceremony carefully staged.

And who could forget in 2014, at a ceremony to hand over keys to an Olympic medallist, the then Prime Minister delivered the feature address and the PP Housing Minister bragged that the five-bedroom unit was “the most beautiful HDC house” and joked whether the HDC could also build one for him.

So much for all that alluvial soil permanently lost to concrete and steel.

Of course none of this was surprising, as in 2011 the HDC under the same PP Housing Minister, on Easter Monday (no less), bulldozed tens of acres of agricultural lands at Pineapple Smith’s Lands, D’Abadie, and Egypt Village, Chaguanas, destroying the crops on the lands which had been farmed for years. Forgetting that the UNC was founded on principles that stood firmly against this kind of action, the PP Housing Minister bluntly said that the farmers had to get off the land to make way for housing.

Today under a new administration the destruction of the alluvial plains continues, with the present PNM Agriculture Minister and PNM Planning Minister refusing to back down from their position that more lands adjacent to the East Grove development will be used for the new HDC North Grove development. As in 2005, now back in Opposition, we are back where we started with protest about the destruction of farming land and crops, and the improper use of these lands to voter pad.

Sadly the replay doesn’t stop there. The unfinished Point Fortin Highway project under the PP today is succeeded by the Manzanilla Highway under the PNM, both mired in controversy. The arrest and detention of scores of people during the PP State of Emergency, and eventual release without charges, is followed now by the arrest, detention and release of people recently under the PNM on the basis of a vague “plot” to attack Carnival events. The irony is that, as the Port-of-Spain victims of the concerted muggings on Carnival Monday will attest, and the families of those killed during the revelry will confirm, we are quite capable of attacking Carnival events without any outside help.

And so the frustration, anger and sense of helplessness continue to build as our citizens, regardless of colour, creed, race, age or gender, begin to face the reality that that reset in fact means replay. All the while crime continues to spiral out of control and the economy flat lines. Our nation must find a way to hit the right button to reset our country on the right path.

Mickela Panday


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