Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (Cepep) workers are not being paid to protest in support of the People’s Partnership, says the company’s chairman Adesh Deonarine. However, employees of the programme continue to attend protests during working hours and claim they are being instructed by their contractors to hold placards and posters instead of brushcutters and brooms.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Deonarine said though he had heard rumours Cepep workers were being paid to protest, that information was untrue. On Monday, hundreds of people lined up outside the Parliament in Port-of-Spain, seemingly to support their political parties, during the debate of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014. When questioned by reporters, however, a significant number of individuals said they were there because they were told to be.
“The contractor called me yesterday and said we needed to report for work at Parliament,” said one woman, adding she had no idea a bill was being debated. The woman had no idea what the debate in question was about. Her fellow Cepep employees sat alongside her quietly waiting till they could leave. Deonarine, who admitted he was present outside the Parliament on Monday, said he did not recognise any of the hundreds of protesters as being connected to Cepep.
The nearly 10,000 Cepep employees in Trinidad work between 6 am to noon and between 7 am to 1 am. Deonarine said he felt that people were targetting Cepep workers. “We do not force people to do anything. There is no threat to anyone’s job and we have never instructed any contractors,” he added. Deonarine said if contractors had encouraged workers to protest, it would have been picked up by management as all workers had to sign in for duty.
Saying the company was fair, he added almost 60 per cent of Cepep employees were from Opposition areas. On Monday one Opposition supporter had also admitted to being a part of a Cepep crew that had been asked to support the Government’s Constitution (Amendment) bill. She said she had chosen to come but only so she could support the People’s National Movement (PNM).
One man from south Trinidad alleged contractors were told to bring their crews to Port-of-Spain by people who claimed to represent Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal. Moonilal, in a text message yesterday, said he did not interfere with Cepep management. He suggested that any questions be directed to Deonarine.