Unfazed by the Ministry of Works and Transport’s threat of legal action, residents protested in South Trinidad for a second day yesterday with fires raging in several areas communities in the Moruga/Tableland constituency.
As early as 7 am residents of Hindustan, near Princes Town, blocked the roads with tires and debris which they lit on fire, resulting in motorists seeking alternative routes.
Their complaints mirrored residents of Barrackpore who are protesting over deplorable road conditions and lack of water.
In response to the ministry’s threat, residents questioned whether the ministry would be repairing their vehicles that have been damaged as a result of the bad roads.
However, a senior police officer confirmed they are investigating and have obtained camera footage at various locations where the protests were held, particularly in the Barrackpore areas.
A spokesperson of two residents at Sookhan Trace Junction and Cumoto South Junction complained that the police entered the homes without showing them a warrant and seised their DVC recording. Meanwhile, residents in Barrackpore complained about police intimidation.
Shane Gobin claimed the police slashed tires and fired shots. He said his 14-year-old son was alone in the car when the police arrived at the junction.
“He (son) say it had tires in the road. The police come with a maxi and he (son) start to run and while running the police fire two shots in the air.” He said his son ran home. Gobin said he went to the junction where he found his tires slashed.
Speaking with reporters at Hindustan Estate Road which leads to the Devil’s Woodyard, resident Pooran Lal pleaded with the ministry and government to repair the road.
He lamented, “Although the call from the MP have gone on deaf ears, no one has paid attention to us. Like they forget us in the back here. That is not fair.”
Another resident, a farmer, said while the farmers got the least budgetary allocation the country is dependent on farmers.
“I kindly asking the government to please fix the road so the farmers could operate, the farmers could produce food for the people.” Standing in solidarity with her constituents MP Michelle Benjamin was appalled by the ministry’s release on Monday in which residents chastised for being “irresponsible and unpatriotic.”
Claiming that the fiery protests damaged the asphalt on the roads to the tune of $350,000, the ministry warned that intentional damage to government property is an offence and appropriate legal action will be taken. Benjamin accused Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan of intimidation and geographical discrimination.
She said the villagers have a right to protest and express their concerns. “The fact that the Minister is trying to intimidate persons, because when similar action is taking place in other parts of the country we do not see the same press release coming from the Ministry of Works. So I will call on the minister to explain why that press release was warranted on my constituents in Barrackpore. In my point of view that is discrimination, in my point of view that is geographical discrimination because when similar action is taking place on the Beetham, in Diego Martin I have not seen and I stand to be corrected, any press release to that effect with the same strong wording.”
Noting that two months ago there was a tenth landslip in the Hindustan Estate Road community, she said to date they have not yet received a proper estimate from the ministry.
But, yet she said in a couple of minutes or hours the ministry generated an estimate for tires being burn on the roadway to highlight a plight. “I am calling on behalf of my constituents for the Minister of Works and also the Minister of Public Utilities to pay a visit to the constituency of Moruga/Tableland,” Benjamin said.
Acknowledging that there are works being done on the Moruga road, she said that does not address the entire constituency.
She also claimed that 65 per cent of the landslips repaired by the ministry has to be re-tendered because the work was not done in a substantive way. Denying that the protests are politically motivated, she said, “The call to protest I tried to suppress them as long as I could have because right now we are in an SOE and I would not put any of my constituents in harm’s way, especially with the is PNM administration.”
Benjamin added that they have sought legal counsel regarding the ministry’s threat of legal action, but her constituents could also sue the ministry. Fed up the neglect for the past six hers,m she said her constituents will not be backing down until the roads are repaired, a regular supply of water and leaking water lines are repaired.
When contacted Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said he visited the constituency just a month ago.
Noting that about $175 million have been spent on projects along the Moruga Road, he said they are spending another $80 million to build a port in Moruga.
“I know exactly what is going on. I know more that is going on in the constituency than the MP,” the minister said. Meanwhile, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling on Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan to apologise to residents of Barrackpore.
In a release, Moonilal said, “Rohan Sinanan, Minister of Works and Transport, is callous and malicious in criticising the long-suffering residents of Barrackpore who had to resort to public protests to highlight the horrible state of their roads. Mr. Sinanan owes the distressed and tolerant residents a public apology for branding them as unpatriotic and irresponsible, and for the continued gross neglect of their community.”
He said residents of Barrackpore, like those of most rural communities in the country, have seen their roads crumble under the failed PNM regime, and have been met with stony indifference and arrogance from the authorities. Moonilal said people are frustrated.”
Roads and bridges are in a disastrous state and require urgent intervention, not the arrogance and conceit of the failed Minister of Works and Transport. Mr. Sinanan must start with a heartfelt apology.”