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Protest in La Brea over poor road, jobs
Hundreds of school children and workers were left stranded yesterday as residents used piles of fiery debris to block several roads leading out of La Brea in protest against poor road conditions and high unemployment.
The protest, which started from 5.30 am, saw at least 18 blockades at Point D’Or, Sobo, Vessigny, Union and Vance River, which affected motorists heading to Point Fortin and environs. It coincided with the re-opening of the school term after the Christmas break.
The area had been the scene of many similar protests under the last People’s Partnership administration with then MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey among those voicing concern over the high unemployment rate and the poor road conditions.
The scene turned ugly as police had to drag residents from the path of a backhoe driven by soldiers, who threatened to drive into defiant protesters. At one point, police had to lift a woman as the backhoe reached within inches of her.
According to resident Neil Harrisingh, villagers are frustrated with the road conditions, adding that there was not even a pavement to use. He said it was also hard for them to maintain their vehicles as the road had many potholes and depressions.
“You all heard what Uncle Rowley (Prime Minister Keith Rowley) said on the TV, things will only get harder before it gets better. We have it hard for the longest while. For years under the other administration we were facing this. The councillor is at least trying. He brought some pitch but we need asphalt on this road. You are not doing anything or what?
“No matter what administration, like they don’t care about La Brea. We took it upon ourselves to make sure nobody cannot use the road. It is better they condemn this road and build a road in the air because it is like they can’t make with this one,” Harrisingh said.
Lennox London said the youths of La Brea were in need of employment and enhancement programmes. He said while the councillor attempted to repair a major depression using pitch, it made the road worst.
He added that La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre was not seen in the community since the general election last September. Residents also criticised the construction of the Dimethyl Ether (DME) plant at the Union Industrial Estate in Vessigny, saying that jobs there are being given to people from outside the community.
With yesterday being the first day of school, London said it was the perfect opportunity to highlight their problem as everyone around that area would be affected.
Commercial activity in Point Fortin was seriously affected by the protest as there were reports of high absenteeism and late delivery of goods.
According to past president of the Point Fortin South Western Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Ricardo Joseph, even the energy companies suffered.
“We had absenteeism at workplaces today in most of the areas for the obvious reason of the roads being blocked. This is a problem from time-to-time because of the condition of the road and so far we have not had a definitive solution to the problem.
“I know for a fact that oil companies were affected because some people did not report to work. Some businesses in the community not only had absenteeism but staff coming in late.
“This impacted upon businesses who depended on staff to operate and it would of course affect their profitability and customer service.
“School children were also affected. Some children had to leave the area and those coming opted to stay home because of the blockage,” Joseph said.
He agreed with the residents concerns about the condition of the road, saying it accelerates the wear and tear of vehicles.
Joseph said while he did not have evidence to say whether people from outside the community were being preferred for construction jobs on the DME plant, it was something the chamber constantly dealt with and called for more local content in projects along the southwestern peninsula0.