Failed Meeting With La Seiva Residents

…Following Floods and Landslides

By Leslie Paul
November 29, 2011

Residents of upper and lower La Seiva, Maraval at a meeting with members of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure
Residents of upper and lower La Seiva, Maraval at a meeting with
members of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure

On Monday 28th November, 2011, residents of upper and lower La Seiva, Maraval, attended a meeting which purported to address their concerns following the landslides and floods which occurred last week. The Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Jack Warner, was supposed to head talks with the residents but was unable to attend. Members of the Ministry as well as the Chairman, Mr. Anthony Sammy and other representatives from the Diego Martin Regional Corporation were present to carry on with the meeting.

Cross-section of La Seiva residents at meetin
Cross-section of La Seiva residents at meeting

Close to one hundred residents, mainly from Village One and Two on the hills of La Seiva were in attendance at the La Seiva R.C. School where the meeting was held. They were advised about the Minister’s absence but were told that the meeting would proceed and scribes would take note of their concerns which would be forwarded to the Minister.

After a prayer, lead by the Councillor for the area, Nadine Romany, the floor was opened for the residents to voice their concerns.

La Seiva Village resident raises concerns at meeting
La Seiva Village resident raises concerns at meeting

Persons from La Seiva Village made comments about their safety on the hills and asked about plans for relocation among other concerns. However, they were soon advised by members of the panel to direct their questions to issues concerning drainage, which they were there to discuss. Panel members explained that it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Development to address issues concerning housing and relocation.

La Seiva Village residents disappointed with the meeting
La Seiva Village residents disappointed with the meeting

Voices of protest began to erupt immediately mainly for two reasons. Firstly, residents believed that they were misled into attending because they were not informed that the discussion would be solely about drainage: a matter that would immediately concern residents on the plains. Secondly, persons from the hills felt that they were being placed on the backburner because they comprise the poorer segment of La Seiva. They felt that given that some of them lost their homes and others could lose theirs as well as their lives, that their plight should be addressed with urgency. Some residents from La Seiva Village who lost their homes or whose properties are on the brink of collapse are currently being housed at the La Seiva Community Centre — a designated shelter.

Residents chat with members of the head table while one member addresses fustrated residents
Residents chat with members of the head table while one member addresses fustrated residents

Members of the head table intimated that although they sympathized with the residents they could not talk about areas outside their purview. They advised that issues about housing be taken up with the appropriate Minister, Mr. Roodal Moonilal. The Councillor for the area, Nadine Romany, suggested that a meeting could be arranged in the near future in this regard. There was an immediate uproar.

Some residents took to the microphone to explain why they should be allowed to vent their concerns stating that the problems from the source should be discussed with immediacy. Others proceeded to highlight their concerns but were soon cut short by members of the panel who said that they were there to address drainage. They further stated that the residents should have known that this was the case when they heard that it was the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure that was coming to address them.

La Seiva Village residents walk out of meeting
La Seiva Village residents walk out of meeting

Many residents, disappointed with the apparent deception about the purpose of the meeting and frustrated that their needs came second to the wealthier section of La Seiva, began to walk out of the meeting, loudly verbalizing their discontent. They gathered in the school yard discussing their next move among themselves. After that, what was left of the meeting never regained a sense of order.

One of the few remaining attendants from the hills voiced his frustration over several issues such as the panel cutting off residents when they spoke and not taking time to listen.

Residents chat with members of the head table
Residents chat with members of the head table

Another resident from lower La Seiva stated that he could not voice concerns about issues affecting him because the entire order of the meeting was wrong and that priority should have been given to persons most affected, which are the persons on the hills. He said that his issues are not as urgent as theirs and when he was invited to the meeting he was not told that it was only to address drainage. Many of the residents who were in the yard returned when they heard the gentleman speak and applauded his contribution. He continued stating that while members of the panel may not have been able to provide answers, they could at least allow residents to vent their frustrations, take notes and forward it to the appropriate Ministry (the Ministry of Housing and Development).

Some of the La Seiva Village residents in the school yard voicing their disappointment
Some of the La Seiva Village residents in the school yard voicing their disappointment

Some of the residents who returned to the meeting vented their frustrations, but soon left in disgust after a member of the panel from the Ministry of Works reiterated that they were only there to talk about drainage.

Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Mr. Anthony Sammy addresses the small audience
Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Mr. Anthony Sammy addresses the small audience

The Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Mr. Anthony Sammy, arrived a while later and addressed the small audience that remained. It seemed as though he tried to appease them by speaking, not about drainage, but about issues surrounding the landslide and the work that was done by the councillors and the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure. He spoke about the small salaries of councillors and the limited funding his Corporation receives. He explained how the Diego Martin Regional Corporation receives a paltry sum of about 12.2 million dollars and it has to address the concerns of a lot more people than Tobago which receives over 2 billion dollars annually.

Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Mr. Anthony Sammy
Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Mr. Anthony Sammy

When asked about the slow pace at which work was taking place, especially with regard to relocation, Mr. Sammy said that they were working as fast as they could to address these concerns. However, he said that there were problems that were slowing the process such as persons with foreign accents who were making claims and when one asked them where they were from, they could not say. He also spoke of persons without personal identification making claims about property loss and others inflating the extent of their damages. One resident took issue with these statements, stating that what the Chairman was raising could be easily addressed since there are ways of identifying residents and claims of property loss. The resident explained that in this era of technology, they could photograph all the damages as a way to verify claims. He further stated that even if one or two residents may claim to have lost their identification cards in the floods and landslides, they could still be temporarily housed while records are checked to verify their identity. The resident stated that the Chairman was bringing up these issues in a way that prejudices the villagers — painting the residents of La Seiva village (on the hills) as dishonest and ‘outsiders’ so as to redirect focus away from them.

The small audience of La Seiva residents that remained at the meeting
The small audience of La Seiva residents that remained at the meeting

To many, the meeting turned out to be an abysmal failure and many remain upset and uncomfortable about what fate could befall them. However, what was clear is that many residents from La Seiva Village believe that they are being treated as second class citizens and may have to wait until others are attended to before their plight is addressed.

www.trinicenter.com/tnt/2011/2911.html

5 Responses to “Failed Meeting With La Seiva Residents”


  • I guess they were all hoping for uncle Jack to put his hand in the treasury and give them all a house. Well what could residence expect from the Minister of Works? He is not the Minister of Housing.

  • “He explained how the Diego Martin Regional Corporation receives a paltry sum of about 12.2 million dollars and it has to address the concerns of a lot more people than Tobago which receives over 2 billion dollars annually.”
    Let me guess, this insensitive neo tribalist is playing his Massa England ‘divide and rule game,’to full effect, by trying to put big butt, kinky headed Trinis , against their cousins, from historically neglected , Cocrico Island, aka Tobago?
    If these comedians think that any of these lil Boroughs/ municipalities/ towns , or whatever they choose to call themselves ,can be compared with an island , that has not seen even as much as 1% of the wealth of our overall country, since independence , and after 5 clueless leaders, then I have a thing or two, to tell them.
    Tell them de Island , and people ward will be respected, would become a force to be eventually reckoned with. In short , de rejected stone would become the corner stone- in some form.

  • Mamoo, if you were in these people position, I imagine you would not have wanted a house or somewhere to live, because you would have been able to go out and purchase another. Who makes these decisions? The bigger question is why was the Ministry of Works sent to talk with residents who have lost their homes? What would these people know about drainage to hold meaningful discussions with the Ministry of Works? These are ordinary citizens of Trinidad & Tobago, but I suppose, depending on which Party one belongs to, it is these people fault.

    • Cuz Frontsman lamented , “These are ordinary citizens of Trinidad & Tobago, but I suppose, depending on which Party one belongs to, it is these people fault.”
      Seeing that you are dragging down this lane, the bigger question for you my friend is ,not only what has your respective PNM government did for the folks of La Siva, since running the country for all but maybe two periods since 1962,but what are they doing to convince voters , that they are serious about replacing what exist a leadership via present PP regime ,under de guise of a caring , concern government , hell bent, on prudent change , geared towards balanced , sustainable development, in keeping with our position as a resource ladened country?

  • Displaced La Seiva residents frustrated

    By Newsday Reporter
    November 30, 2011

    Displaced residents of Upper and Lower La Seiva, Maraval, said they were becoming frustrated as they believe they have been forgotten by the Government.

    The residents, including those who were relocated to the La Seiva Community Facility, as a result of heavy rains and flooding in the area, said they were fed up of the way they were being treated since their plight was yet to be addressed.

    At a meeting held on Monday, at the La Seiva RC School, the residents stormed out after they were notified that the meeting was not to address housing and relief aid, but to address the issue of drainage in the area.

    Heavy torrential rains two Saturdays ago, caused massive flooding, destruction and landslides in Maraval and since then, close to 100 persons had to be relocated to nearby shelters due to the extent of damage to their homes, with 49 staying at the La Seiva Community Facility.

    The meeting was held by officials from the Ministry of Works, and the residents eagerly attended the meeting since they believed their problems of housing and relief aid, would have been addressed.

    The residents described the meeting as “ridiculous” and “a complete failure” as their hopes to bring an end to their distress were dashed.

    One resident, Amon Hotep said, “The meeting was a total failure because we were given the impression that the meeting would have addressed the issue of housing, relocation, and relief aid.”

    Another affected resident, Cleve Greenidge said although they were being treated well at the centre, the residents needed to get their own homes to be comfortable.

    “We are getting frustrated; we are uncomfortable, and we need to be in our own homes.”

    He added, “We are not looking for handouts; we are willing to pay for our homes, once we are relocated.”

    The residents said although drainage was necessary, getting homes should be the main priority.

    However, Housing Development Corporation Communications, Manager Renatta Jones, said the corporation will not be able to provide housing for all the affected persons as there are not enough units available presently.

    She said, “We have tried to assist some of the families, and last week nine families were given keys, but we cannot assist everyone since there isn’t enough units that are ready for accommodation.”

    Last week Friday, the Ministry of the People and Social Development had conducted an assessment programme to ascertain what level of assistance the residents will need. Since then, the residents said they have not gotten any feedback from the ministry. An official from the Ministry of the People and Social Development, when contacted, said they were working along with the HDC to get housing accommodation for those who were in dire need, and the process should be completed soon.

    Kent Soodeen, president of the La Seiva Community Facility Committee said both him and councillor for the area, Nadine Romany, will be trying to arrange a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Housing in order to bring relief to the displaced residents.

    http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,151455.html

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