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I will make no friends from this, maybe, I'll get results
Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2004

By Linda Edwards

This morning, Dec. 30, I viewed with dismay the mountain of rubbish
making the front page of the Guardian, and wondered what the editor was thinking, why focus on the piles of rubbish and not on the survivors? I thought of the eighteen month old boy rescued from the mud by a fleeing couple; of the eighteen day old girl found floating and crying on a matress in five feet of water. Such hopeful stories instead of the rubbish of despair! Then the title of the piece came up. This was not tsunami related rubbish, in devastated South Asia. This was Port-of-Spain, behind the bridge, across the East Dry River. This was Belmont where my ex-husband and so many of my friends grew up. This was the capital city of the most prosperous nation in the Caribbean chain. This was us, not over there! I had to put my breakfast tray down before spilling something into my keyboard, and ruining my computer.

To say that I am stunned, is to use the mildest possible language to
describe my feelings. It's more of a P.P.O thing. I'm Properly Pissed Off.

Now, my students know the meaning of PPO, and when I say I am PPO'ed, they stay out of my way.

First, I am pissed off at the people who live around there now. At what point did they realize that the garbage was not being collected, and could have decided to do something else about the mountain? Like take their garbage to some place else where it is collected regualrly, like St. Ann's or Cascade, and add it to their pile? Dumping rubbish in the streets is something Europe seems to have abandoned in the seventeenth century. Certainly since the beginning of the twentieth century, piles of rubbish in the streets is a sign of serious social dislocation, as in South Asia this week.

It is a sign of governmental contempt for the poor people at other times. No one in his or her right mind would believe for a moment that such a pile could exist in a middle or upper class area.

Then I am pissed off at the civic organizations that exist in the
Belmont area. Where have they been while this mountain was growing? If Mohamet has not come to the mountain, should it not have been taken carte blanche to Mahomet? Is there no one in the entire Belmont hills who owns a truck, or knows somebody with a back hoe who could move this ton of garbage in a ceremonial procession down through Frederick Street at rush hour along Independence Square, and out to the dump at the Beetham to make a point that people should not be forced to live like this?

Historically, Belmont was the home of the free Mandingo people, people organized enough to pool their resources and form the Free Mandingo Society, which purchased the freedom of EVERY Mandingo slave before emancipation. It was on their behalf that Jonas Mohammed Bath penned his letter to British Royalty petitioning a refund for every free Mandingo, because the owners of the other ethnic groups were compensated 600 British Pounds for each slave, at Emanciaption. (The British government denied the request, but they had the guts to ask.) They were a proud and independent people. So what happened to Belmont?

Thirdly, I am pissed off at the Ministry of Health, that they could
allow this cancerous carbuncle of a rubbish heap to grace the streets of our city. This was not accumulated in a day. This, like a cancer, took time to grow. And what is the point of providing free health care and essential medicines for the elderly, if at the same time you negligently expose them to filth and disease? or is this somebody else's department, and the right hand does not know what the left is doing?

Then, I am pissed off at the municipality of Port-of-Spain. When my
friend Steven S. Sargeant was mayor of the city, I would have called him, even from overseas and said "Sarge, what the hell goin on down there?" And I would have been assured that something would have been done, and it would have been. I am very good at nagging. I had a twenty-year marriage as practise. Now, I know nobody that I could personally shame, so I have to depend on the goodwill of the daily media to let me join the chorus of condemnation. So, Mayor Murchison Brown, is this your balliwick or not? How would you feel if your little grandchild was sitting down to lunch and a fly from that rubbish heap came in through the window and sat on her food? Now little children eat slowly, and fly filth creates worms very fast, so by the time she is finished eating, she has injested enough harmful disease causing agents to make her quite sick.

One of the challenges of public office, Mr. Mayor, is that you must
provide a level of public service as if only members of your beloved family were beneficiaries. I hope you love your family. You should love the people of Belmont equally well.

I am also properly pissed off at the Environmental Protection People. Is Belmont not part of the environment? Are the people there not worth protecting from rats and other vermin hordes that probably nest and multiply expoentially in that garbage? We should be understandably concerned about the preservation of the Magnificent Seven, but we should be equally concerned about the smaller houses in the hills where the poor have always lived and the health of their children, in that rubbishy environment.

The Central Government, as overall cordinators of all that moves and shakes on the island, should wither under the scorn of my anger. Not just the party in power, because they are to blame for the immediate situation, but also the opposition and the almost defunct NAR. What ever happened to that wave of clean up the country activity that accompanied the votequake of 1986? It was just a vaps, was it? The UNC should score some points in the Belmont Hills by getting all their contractor friends, the Moonans etc, to send trucks to move that garbage heap, to the accompaniment of chutney music, tassa drumming and celebratory flag waving. That will get somebody off thier duff!

And finally, to people like Umbala Joseph and others who prospered from business in the Belmont area, and some who are still prospering there, whatever happened to your civic pride? Lost in the jingle of Christmas cash registers?

Collectively, you should all be ashamed. Now will you all stumble over each other and get that garbage, and the heaps with which the Down Town Merchants set so fine an example, moving? I would hate some roving international reporter to think that we too, had been hit by the South Asian disaster.

We must help our Asian brothers in their acute distress. We need to
realize that the people of Belmont need help also.

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