If ever there was a case of the old rolling into the new it was what occurred on the Beetham Highway, the main thoroughfare leading into Port-of-Spain yesterday, when residents staged a fiery protest demonstration on both sides of the highway to protest a sewage problem in the area.
Residents lament that raw sewage has been flowing in the road because of broken infrastructure in the area, which poses a serious health hazard.
Residents blocked the east and westbound lanes of the Beetham Highway, as well as the Priority Bus Route early yesterday morning causing gridlock traffic for people heading into Port-of-Spain.
Police officers were forced to divert traffic at the Civilian Conservation Corps compound onto the Priority Bus Route and then onto the Eastern Main Road, while the debris was cleared by officers from the Fire Service, as well as the Police Service.
Residents lamented their decision to protest was the last resort after several appeals to their Member of Parliament for Laventille West and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds since October 2021, asking him to have the situation rectified, fell on deaf ears and nothing was done to alleviate the problem.
It is the very same Minister Hinds who in august 2018 felt the wrath of the Beetham residents who soaked him with water when he visited the area in an impromptu walkabout, in the face of a water problem in the area.
Yesterday angry residents threatened to carry out “a citizens’ arrest” of their MP as well as the Prime Minister, in order to get their sewage problem solved.
It is difficult to understand how a raw sewage problem could be affecting a community for more than three months and neither WASA nor the sitting MP seems to understand the urgency of the health issues floating around, especially in the face of a virus plaguing this land resulting in over three thousand deaths.
Just what is the job of an MP? Is it just to meet with constituents at election time? Or do they have office days when they can meet with residents, hear their concerns and seek to address them? If that is the case then how come the Minister was unaware that a raw sewage problem is affecting his constituents?
It is also difficult to understand how come Port-of-Spain South MP Stuart Young, who sits in the Office of the Prime Minister was unaware that some of his constituents on Mt Hololo had been experiencing water problems to the point where they staged a protest on Sunday to highlight their concerns.
It can’t be that representation of the people begins and ends with an election.
The Prime Minister and political leader of the PNM Dr Keith Rowley must listen to the cries of the people, who incidentally come from constituencies long held by the PNM because these protests show a clear lack of representation that should not be condoned.
This must be a wake-up call for all MPs.
It does not matter which side of the political divide you stand on, people, real people, voted for you, they have real problems and things should not be allowed to reach such a level of frustration that they feel the only way for anyone to hear them or to address their concerns is to protest.
We understand that when you hold Ministerial portfolios that the rigours of the job can take you away from regularly seeing the people who voted for you. But if that’s the case then where are the Councillors who should be the eyes and ears on the ground alerting the MPs to what is happening.
Protests are not the solution, even though sometimes it is the only way to bring attention to the plight of distressed citizens. The real solution lies with better representation at all levels.