The colourful Divali outfits sported by Opposition—and Government MPs—in Parliament yesterday were a bright spot following days of bleak flood fall-out.
“Eight days of helping people, outside of my constituency,” mused UNC MP Rudy Indarsingh.
Waters are gone, but work continues for the affected thousands trying to put their lives back together—literally—and coping with psychological effects of the trauma. For many, Tuesday’s Divali observances may hardly be priority.
Chaguanas MP Ganga Singh told the T&T Guardian, “Some people are still in a daze. Their homes are in such disarray, it continues causing stress.
“A 64-year-old Warren Road woman, after receiving her relief grant cried to me, ‘I lose everything.’ Not that she felt the grant wasn’t enough, but because of the loss.
“Another sign of losses is large absences at school. On Monday, 150 students from Caroni Presbyterian school were absent the principal said. In Vishnu Boys’ College, 45 were absent.”
MP Indarsingh added, “Due to the sombre mood, Caroni Mandir’s spiritual head said he’s downscaling Divali observances.”
Toco-Sangre Grande MP Glenda Jennings-Smith was absent from Parliament yesterday. But Sangre Grande corporation head Terry Rondon said Grande’s Divali will also be downscaled.
“But I asked councillors to still do a little Divali something for people to bring some joy and out of respect for the Hindu community.
“People remain emotionally affected. A gardener, his wife and six-year-old daughter came to me Thursday; all cried because they felt they’d been forgotten in the floods at the end of their Co-operative Street home. It couldn’t be reached in the high water, which destroyed their possessions.”
Madras Road resident Anthony Atherton, of Caroni East, said his wife’s family won’t be having their usual big “lighting up.”
“My father-in-law’s home was completely flooded, several families losing everything. We were also flooded badly. So no Divali for us. Plenty people nearby in the same boat—any money you have is to buy food, pay loans etc. We’re very worried about the grants since the sums being offered to us are less than what we heard Government stated.”
UNC Mayaro MP Rushton Paray, whose area was also hard hit, said, “When rain set up recently some elderly people called me, panicking. People fear a repeat of the recent disaster, but some Divali functions we’d carded are still on.”
For the unaffected, the commendations for the majority united response effort will hardly be affected by the criticism some minority quarters deserve for using the situation more for agenda than altruism.
Victims’ survival and security are what presently matter beyond the past of who built what, where, or distributed whatever; such information valuable mainly as lessons for the future.
Nor will the public be satisfied with the view that authorities “can’t engineer” for situations like getting 14 inches of rainfall in three days.
After the recent disaster brought certain culture shock where drainage pace, community planning, overall assessments and alerts are concerned, it can’t be business as usual hereon.
Culture shock’s also occurring within and without the police service following recent killings of five alleged Laventille culprits.
The stability benefits of TTPS’ duly appointed leadership shouldn’t be allowed to be lost with blinkered messaging, but should be properly pitched to ensure the paradigm shift that’s occurring is fully understood.
Anything less equals fear and anger—with obvious negative results. Particularly for Government, a point recognised in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s swift —tempered—messaging following the shootings on PNM turf.
Government’s also trying to overcome culture shock concerning its procurement and transparency modus operandi, especially since it’s been put on the spot regarding its pet Sandals project.
Rowley’s personal interventions on both police and procurement issues signalled how significant the respective issues are to Government’s stocks. With Opposition push on issues, Government may have to polish pushback more fluently beyond dubbing people “misleaders.”
A term which may become as popular as Government’s “fake news” defence, but which like that line, doesn’t hold long. Especially when the public is stressed by survival issues.