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Protest outside Parliament
An elderly man held a piece of cardboard displaying newspaper reports on the death of a 16-year-old cricketer, sweat running down his temples as he faced the Parliament building, Tower D, on the waterfront. Near him stood a woman holding a square of bristol board, with the words “Stand for something” in bright red letters.
They were not alone. Yesterday, over nine groups as well as several individuals stood outside Parliament, silently protesting several of the social issues facing T&T as government officials and ministers walked past them. Groups highlighted issues such as crime, environmental issues, protection of children, unpaid salaries, workers’ issues, political financing, the Point Fortin highway and governance. Several protesters heckled, mocked and jeered at government ministers as they made their way into the building.
Others tried to question them but were for the most part ignored. Activist Kirk Waithe of Fixin T&T tried to engage several ministers. He asked Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran to comment on corruption in Government and Minister of Arts Lincoln Douglas to comment on statements he made that ministers should receive free tickets for themselves and friends for cultural events. Neither answered his questions.
Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) contractors held placards saying they had not been paid for projects completed between May and August last year. “Over 289 projects, 116 of them were in Chaguanas West during elections and we have not been paid yet,” said spokesman for the group of contractors, Danny Persad. A few feet away, Oilfield Workers Trade Union Communications Officer Ozzie Warwick stood with union members protesting the “poor state of governance.”
He warned that on May 23, a mass protest would take place dealing with the issue. “The message is that it is time to take a stand for T&T. We are calling on citizens and interest groups, whatever issues you face, it all ties in to the poor state of governance in T&T,” Warwick said. “It is time for citizens to take a stand.”
Environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who leads the Highway Re-route Movement in its protest against the Mon Desir section of the Point Fortin highway, said the issues being raised yesterday were shared by the entire country. “We believe in peaceful revolution, but if we try all means possible and cannot get peaceful response we will be forced into a violent revolution and that is something we are trying to avoid.”
Even Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner seemed to air his issue outside Parliament, calling the People’s Partnership Government the worst government ever. He said every promise made by the partnership had been a failure when it came to delivery to the people. “I cannot absolve myself, because I was a part of that, but I will live to correct it,” Warner said.
While some ministers and opposition members were heckled and booed by the crowd of protesters, some, like junior Works Minister Stacy Roopnarine, were ignored, passing without the notice of the crowd. Sports Minister Anil Roberts was one of the few ministers to engage protesters, walking over to one of the groups to find out their issues. “Write me a letter and have it delivered to me. I am a cabinet minister and I will talk to the ministers responsible about these issues,” Roberts said.
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