Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Works Ministry claims threats by gunmen
A hole in the highway in Cocorite has not been repaired because gunmen threatened workers who tried to work at the site. This was the explanation given by the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure in response to questions from the T&T Guardian about delays in filling the crater. The hole, measuring ten metres across and five metres deep, outside Powder Magazine Phase II, Cocorite, has been left exposed for months, with no work taking place.
Safety barriers were dismantled after residents lost patience with the delays, which they feel have left pedestrians and drivers at grave risk. The barriers were re-erected in early August after a report in the T&T Guardian revealed the length of delays and the impact on the local community. Work on the site, however, has not restarted, prompting further inquiries into the lack of activity.
Michael McKenzie, an engineer at the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, is the project manager responsible for the Cocorite project. Two weeks ago, the T&T Guardian asked him to explain the ongoing delays. Previously, the ministry had said Trintoplan had been brought in to redesign the plans and had fallen behind on delivery times. McKenzie refused to answer questions directly, saying the correct protocol was to seek a response from the ministry’s corporate communications manager, Tiffany Richards.
The response from Richards took a week to arrive. The project, she claimed in her e-mail of September 20, would be completed by mid-October. Asked if that meant Trintoplan had finished the redesign, she said Trintoplan would no longer be redesigning the plans, as previously stated. “They have decided to complete the works differently,” Richards said, before adding that she could not reveal the changes to the plans.
Richards also wrote that “personnel on site have reported being threatened recently by persons with guns who demanded money in order to allow the work to continue.” Asked which personnel had been threatened, Richards said McKenzie had the details and the matter had been reported to the police. Residents say no workmen have been seen on-site in months.
Dr Amery Browne, MP for Diego Martin Central, denied the ministry’s claims, saying he had received no reports of threats and said it was “a clear case of trying to mislead.” He suggested that because workers in other parts of T&T had been threatened with extortion by armed gunmen, the ministry now used this as a default excuse whenever work and infrastructure projects were affected by delays.
“As MP for Diego Martin Central, I’ve heard no such thing and had no reports,” he said. “In no manner can these reasons be used to explain or excuse the ministry’s slothfulness. No contractors have been there since the last quarter of 2012, so how could they be threatened? “For this claim to form part of their response shows we have a deeper problem. Gunmen are now used as a government blanket response to any works question. It’s a weak effort and an attempt to muddy the waters.”
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