Activists: action needed in east Port-of-Spain
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, August 25 2013
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Duncan Street activist Hazel Smith...
Even as they express appreciation for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar meeting with residents of East Port-of-Spain last week, community activists say more meetings are just “a waste of time.”
They say last week’s meeting, which followed a recent spike in murders and gang-related activity in the area, was “more of the same” and fell flat in the area of implementation.
“There is no need for any more meetings. It is a whole waste of time,” Duncan Street activist Hazel Smith said of last Wednesday’s meeting at the South-East Port-of-Spain Secondary School.
“We know what the needs of the communities are and we have known them for many years and they were never met. What we need is implementation and the method of implementation.”
“It was like any other meeting where people express themselves, but what is the follow-up?” she asked.
“I know many residents spoke about housing and unemployment, but how are they going to implement all of these things. The Prime Minister came and she showed an interest and we appreciate and respect it but she has to go to the players and just do it (implement),” she said.
Smith has lived on Duncan Street for the past 67 years.
Noting problems with the South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School, Smith claimed that before last week’s meeting, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh had never visited the school.
“And that is the trouble with governments. There is a lot of talk and not enough development,” she said.
Following a meeting with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, on Thursday, the PM announced several crime and social initiatives to tackle the problems affecting East Port-of-Spain.
Apart from the establishment of a Rapid Response Crime Unit and plans to increase the manpower within the Police Service, she also detailed a list of initiatives aimed at providing training and creating sustainable employment for the people in the troubled community.
Beetham activist, Sherma Wilson felt Government could have also considered some of the recommendations of the Prof Selwyn Ryan Report: No Time To Quit: Engaging Youth At Risk, in determining the way forward.
The 436-page Ryan Report, which was laid in the Parliament on March 22, found that young African men in hotspot communities were more predisposed to being caught in the criminal world of illegal drugs, guns and violent crime if something was not done to curb the problem.
In the document, Ryan, who headed a five-member committee to conduct the research into crime and juvenile delinquency, urged the Government to do “whatever is necessary” to prevent guns from ending up in the hands of criminals in Laventille.
Wilson said the Ryan Report listed many of the social ills plaguing the district and gave recommendations. “So, they know what has to be done. Why aren’t they implementing aspects of the report?” Wilson asked.
“It was the prime minister who commissioned the report in the first place. The policy-makers know that they have to improve the socio-economic conditions.”
Wilson said strategies must also be implemented to address residents’ fears about venturing into other communities because of the ongoing battle for turf among rival gangs.
She said solutions to social problems affecting east Port-of-Spain were multi-faceted and needed collaborative effort — Government, businessmen and members of the community.
“It is time to get this partnership going or we eh going nowhere,” she said.
St Barb’s activist Devon Welch dismissed Wednesday’s meeting as “same old, same old.”
“I am glad that she (prime minister) came but it really made no sense on how they conducted the meeting,” he said.
“At the end of the day, what are the solutions. We are doing the same things over and over, from time immemorial and they (Government) seem not to be listening.”
Welch said people were fed-up of politicians “playing games with the people.
Meanwhile, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN), Joseph Remy, said Government should considered the recommendations of the East Port-of-Spain Heritage Organisation, a member unit of FITUN.
Remy said FITUN had submitted a proposal to the People’s Partnership Government when it came into office “and nothing has come of it.”
“Now we are seeing that East Port-of-Spain is getting so much attention,” he said.
He said the proposals include the development of an ‘Old Havana-type’ village in the Duncan Street area, which would encourage tourism and small entrepreneurship; the a re-development of the housing stock in the community, and the replacement of Cepep and URP with community co- operatives.
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