By Ria Taitt
The fight against the Westmoorings location for two government secondary schools was comprehensively lost by the end of Thursday night's meeting, which was held in Victoria Gardens, Diego Martin.
And nowhere was it more evident than in the thunderous booing which public relations consultant, Lloyd Cartar received. What made the booing all the more powerful was that it came from the Westmoorings and Victoria Gardens residents themselves. And they were very well represented at the meeting, taking up most of the sitting space.
Both Diego Martin West MP, Keith Rowley and Education Minister Hazel Manning addressed the crowd in strong speeches which appeared to convince the crowd of the need for the schools.
Rowley gave the long history of the idea, which began as far back as 1979, of building of the school in the location. The idea grew, despite the fact that the Ministry looked at several other locations, all of which were ruled out for one good reason or another, he noted.
Rowley said there was the suggestion of a site next to St Michael's Home for Boys. "I objected to that. Because I was not going to support the construction of a girls' school next to a home that houses delinquent boys," he said, adding that the parents of those girl children had a legitimate expectation that a government would not do such a thing.
Rowley drew the residents' attention to the fact that there were other options for use of the particular land. He pointed out that at least the school would be a low rise building consisting of two floors, whereas a housing settlement would be high rise buildings of at least six floors. "You would be far less comfortable, with people looking down into your yard and into your bedrooms," Rowley quipped.
The Planning Minister however was cognisant of the traffic problem in the area and explained that the government didn't just plan to "drop children" and "let them run Russian roulette in the traffic". The Cabinet had mandated the Ministry of Works and Transport to design a complete traffic plan aimed at addressing the vexing problem.
A voice from the crowd, obviously not swayed by Rowley's arguments, shouted, "Find another place! Not here!". Rowley responded that as their representative he was prepared to listen to their objections. But, he stressed, "No person in this country has a right to deny another person what is their right — that is to have their children educated in the neighbourhood where they were born and bred. (On that score) You can keep your vote, because I will oppose you. All of us belong to Trinidad and Tobago. And none of us is more equal than anybody else," he stated passionately and to vigorous applause.
Rowley said he wanted to throw out the challenge to the residents, who must be commended for showing interest in what happens in their neighbourhood, to get involved in the school boards of the proposed schools, so that they can become — ("I don't like the word 'prestige' he stated) — schools offering 'quality' education.
Hazel Manning followed, speaking at length about government's vision of a holistic child, a quality curriculum, single shift schools and the alievation of poverty, which was now at 23 percent.
Among the key goals of the Ministry of Education was to provide an environment which will help curb "the anger we are seeing in the schools now,", she stated. And, she predicted, if the society didn't move to stem this tide of rage, "none of us would be able to live here".
The residents, with the exception of Cartar, all appeared to accept the need for the schools. But they raised concerns about the traffic, the lack of recreational facilities for children in the Diego Martin area, the need for greenery, the lack of implementation in so many government plans, and what they saw as a lack of proper planning for the area. Among those who spoke were James Aboud, Bernard Pantin and Dr Howard Blanche.
Cartar then rose to ask several questions, but he was literally shouted down and forced to abandon the microphone amidst a hail of boos. The crowd allowed him to raise criticisms about the lack of communication about the meeting, though they pointed out that he seemed to be the only one with this problem.
One man handed him a flyer which advertised the meeting, while a pregnant resident, asked sharply: "Where were you?" But Cartar, undaunted, ventured into deeper waters, asking whether a "selected" government without a majority in the Parliament had a moral authority to build the proposed schools. He was forced to retreat under the crescendo of booing, with Rowley attempting to offer some protection as he told residents that Cartar was entitled to his views.
But Rowley did respond to him. "If you have a problem with the President's appointment (of Patrick Manning as Prime Minister) you could take it somewhere else. I am in office already" he told Cartar.
|NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 this material is distributed without profit or payment to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material
from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. |