By ALEXANDER BRUZUAL Thursday, September 20 2012
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OLYMPIC BABE: Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott with one-year-old Malick Molwin during the PM's tour of Laventille....
AS SHE threw a coin into a pond located at the Beverly Hills’ housing complex during a tour yesterday of Laventille, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar wished for peace not only in the crime hot spot but throughout the country.
At the time, the Prime Minister, National Security Minister Jack Warner, Works and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal had walked from the Basketball Court in John John to the Beverly Hills housing complex.
Along the way, Persad-Bissessar listened intently to the pleas and cries for help from many of the residents who lined the streets for an opportunity to meet the Prime Minister. In turn, Persad- Bissessar heard everyone who approached her, following which, she directed them to nearby note takers from relevant Ministries, who could list their concerns.
There were heavily armed policemen and soldiers who protected the Prime Minister and her ministers. As she gazed at the pond, she was encouraged to throw a coin and, “make a wish”. She threw the coin into the water and loudly declared that she wished for peace in Laventille and in the country.
Let us work for peace
Many thanked the Prime Minister for the implementation of joint/army police patrols and an army camp being set up in crime-weary communities in Laventille which resulted in not one murder, not one shooting, not one act of robbery being reported for the past ten days. But there were also calls for help in other areas such as housing, sustainable jobs and communal activity centres to keep children off the street. The Prime Minister listened and said these issues would be dealt with in the coming months.
Persad-Bissessar said she was pleased to see so many people turning out in support of their community. “As I threw the shilling into the pond, I made a wish for peace. So I ask you, let us work together for peace. Because it is something we desperately need in this country.
“We need to stop the violence and senseless killings. So let our first duty be to preserve life. Because, let’s look at it this way...if you are dead then no house is going to be the best house. If you are dead, then as the young people like to say, you won’t be able to ‘eat ah food’. You will not be able to get those pretty clothes that I am seeing so many of you wearing. So let us work together and let us have peace for our sake and for our children’s sake,” Persad-Bissessar told the residents.
“In every democratic society we are allowed to disagree from time to time. But there is one thing we cannot disagree on and that is we must fight crime to the bitter end. We must continue to give our best effort. And that is how we can progress and take our nation forward. And that is why I came today, for the first time, to talk to you about the issues which confront you,” Persad- Bissessar said.
The Prime Minister also congratulated the Laventille community, saying they should all be proud that for the past ten days, there has not been a single murder. “But I also came to say congratulations dear people of Laventille and do you know why? Today registers day ten that there has not been a single murder in Laventille. I have also been advised that not a single gunshot has been fired. For that, people of Laventille, you deserve congratulations!”
She also congratulated Warner, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj for their work in locking down Laventille over the past two weeks.
Also at the gathering was Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott, who told members of the community how proud he was that there had been no violence for such an extended period of time. He also encouraged residents to keep the peace.
Persad-Bissessar then visited Picton Road where she interacted mainly with young children who at the time, were playing basketball. She encouraged them to play hard, but also study hard.
Picton Road jeers Warner
However, unlike the warm reception she received in John John and Beverly Hills, residents of Pump Trace gave Persad-Bissessar the proverbial cold shoulder, holding aloft placards, some of which read “KAMLA, why are you silent?” (in reference to the Section 34 debacle) and “Let our children know right from wrong: by leading by example.”
She later announced that due to time constraints she had to leave as there is another engagement that requires her presence.
Some residents became irate. “So she visit some, but not us? She think crime doesn’t happen here in Pump Trace? She thinks our views are not good enough for her? Why is the Prime Minister not here? She is supposed to be representing all of us, not some of us! We need jobs! We need homes! Our children are starving our children are suffering and she ignoring us, yet legislation passing to free Ish and Steve? That not right, not at all,” exclaimed an angry woman.
The arrival of Warner did little to placate the situation, as many residents took out their frustration on him by jeering him. “We don’t want you! You can’t do anything for us. We want the Prime Minister! Let her come down here if she brave enough!” declared a resident, to which Warner politely responded, “welcomed or unwelcomed, we are here to help. That is what we came to do.”
For the remainder of his tour of Pump Trace, Warner continued to ignore the verbal abuse thrown at him and focused on speaking to the handful of persons who did approach him for assistance, making note of several suggestions — including one for the construction of a community centre along Pump Trace.
When residents of Pump Trace were asked by Newsday where the signs that they were holding up originated from, some residents simply responded: “a man gave us it down the road and told us to wave it around.”
The Prime Minister’s visit to Laventille — a historic stronghold of the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) — came a day after Opposition and PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley staged a march in Port-of-Spain, which started outside the Red House and ended at President’s House where he delivered a petition to Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith, calling for Persad-Bissessar to publicly explain the debacle that is Section 34.