Amidst concerns over crime, Arima Mayor Balliram Maharaj says he intends to work towards enhancing safety and digital connectivity in the borough.
Maharaj, 82, is the chief executive officer of the Arima Discount Mart and former chairman of the Arima Business Association.
He was announced as the new Arima Mayor in August, succeeding Cagney Casimire, who was appointed in 2020.
Speaking during his swearing-in ceremony at the Malabar Community Centre on Monday, Maharaj said he will push towards enhancing the quality of life for all residents and visitors to the borough.
Referring to the Arima Connect project which was initiated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Maharaj said it was his hope that Arima could become T&T’s first “smart” city.
He added that such an initiative could have benefits in crime-fighting by maximising coverage and surveillance through CCTV cameras.
“The project includes providing free Wi-Fi in the Arima Hospital, high schools, police stations and other high traffic areas to enhance digital connectivity and urban renewal,” Maharaj said.
“There will be cameras, police throughout the borough with monitors 24/7. Tell them criminals, cameras placed by every pole. Smart poles, you’ll hear that before the end of the year.”
Maharaj said he anticipated that 50 per cent of the programme will be completed before the end of 2023.
He said ensuring safety in the borough was particularly crucial in his role as mayor and assured his commitment to restoring a sense of security in Arima.
“Above all, let us join hands and work together to make Arima the safest borough in Trinidad and Tobago so we can walk the streets freely and safely again.”
Maharaj said he also intends to lobby for more government ministries and agencies to open offices in Arima to improve access to all.
He also intends to work towards preserving Arima’s history and cultural identity through a designated space for parang.
Noting his own cultural background and upbringing, Maharaj said his appointment as mayor was proof that T&T was truly an inclusive, multi-cultural nation which placed shared values over differences.
“I was born in Arima Hospital in 1942. I’m a proud Trini and the son of humble, hard-working Hindu parents.
“Thanks to my faith and upbringing, which has given me the knowledge to think, to meditate on issues before making decisions. So, with much reflection I am ready to serve.
“We must never forget the sacrifices made by our ancestors so that we can be here today.”
Responding to earlier remarks from former mayor Cagney Casimire, Maharaj said he had no intention of scrapping or discontinuing scheduled infrastructural projects and would push for their timely completion, while also formulating new ideas.
“This mayor will not press buttons and go backwards, we will take what you did and do everything you said.”
He also said that local government reform was necessary to the continued development of Arima and its people.
During his final address as mayor, Casimire outlined several scheduled works and called on the Maharaj and the incoming council to envision a better future for Arima.
Referring to the vandalism of a sign in the community, Casimire said he chose to leave the vandalised sign up as proof of the challenges facing security.
“We need more funding for security,” he also said.