Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Protests in PM’s constituency
Angry villagers hurled bottles at a police jeep, cracking the front windscreen of the vehicle, as two dozen police officers tried to stop fiery protests from spreading through the Prime Minister’s constituency of Penal early yesterday. Five men, between the ages of 19 and 36, were arrested. Three were charged for obscene language, one for using insulting language and another for malicious damage of government property. Police kept an all-night vigil at Clarke, Lachoos and Penal Rock Roads, Batchiya Trace and Smart Avenue. The protests began under the cover of darkness as residents called for better drainage, upgrade to the David Williams recreation ground and better representation. Old tyres were piled in different areas in the villages and protesters, including women and children, scattered the tyres along the sides of the streets.
Around 3 am, police caught protesters off-loading tyres in front of the recreation ground at Smart Avenue. Some fled while others began hurling bottles at the jeep, smashing the windscreen, police said. One villager, Patricia Daniel, accused the police of pointing their guns at the protesters. “Three people got arrested. I saw when they held the second man. He was walking out the road and they let him go down on his knees, hands up in the air. “I don’t know if the residents attacked the police, I hear that
somebody pelt the police jeep. I wasn’t there for that,” Daniel said. She said the police made some of the protesters kneel on the ground before searching them and taking them away.
Asked why children were being encouraged to take part in the protests when that was a violation
of the Children Act, Daniel said she did not know that was an offence. She said: “The children suffering
too. The whole village supposed to come out here tonight but the police threatened us. That is why a lot of the adults backed off.” Some of the children, who appeared to be under 12, held up placards which read: “Kamla stop talking and start delivering” and “fix the recreation ground now.” At one of the fiery blockades at Lachoos Road, two youths tried to drag a lighted tyre to stop a passing driver but he drove on the pavement and then sped off. Football coach Tyrone Charles accused councillors from the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation of discrimination.
He said: “They not cleaning the drains. They not picking up our rubbish. I had to dig a hole six feet deep in the ground to bury our rubbish.” He accused a councillor of discrimination because they were “not supporting the UNC. This is unfair. We deserve better than that,” Charles said. He said students from Penal Secondary School, Holy Faith Convent, Shiva Boys’ College and the Penal Life Skills Department used the ground. Charles added: “We fed up. We are like a clogged pipeline that just burst. I am the coach for the Under-13 team and we cannot even train at nights because there are no lights on the ground.
“The convent girls have to change their clothes in the savannah behind a shed. We want a play park like all other play parks. We want proper lighting. We cannot even train because the lighting system bad. They fixing up all over the Prime Minister’s constituency but not here because they saying we do not support UNC.” He said a basketball ring had been put up at the ground but it was stolen. Contacted yesterday, former councillor Shanti Boodram denied discrimination allegations but said the protests were politically motivated and she had been meeting with the residents regularly to discuss their concerns. She said lights were erected at the recreation ground two years ago but vandals sabotaged the
electrical panel box, stealing the copper cables. “We spent thousands of dollars to fix it and in January this year and they sabotaged the cables again,” she said. She said basketball facilities at the grounds also were stolen. She promised that the regional corporation would begin fixing the toilet facilities and washrooms immediately while the Sports Company of T&T would work on fixing the drainage around the grounds.
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