?Having had the absolute and unwavering support of the people of Laventille for the 54 years of its existence as a political party, it is highly contemptuous of the PNM's political leader, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, to go into that part of the country, which is riddled with crime and sunk in underdevelopment, to name in an ad hoc manner a committee of ministers and parliamentary representatives to discern the problems of the area. Where have Mr Manning and the PNM Government been all this time?Specifically, as it relates to the stewardship of Mr Manning's administration, between 2002 and 2007, Prime Minister Manning and his Government announced a plan for the rehabilitation of east Port-of-Spain, inclusive of the "behind the bridge" areas, Laventille and Sea Lots. Where has that plan got to beyond talk and the establishment of a company, presumably to effect the job?
Over the same period of further deterioration of Laventille, the Government embarked on a massive programme of con- struction or refurbishment of administrative buildings, a palatial prime ministerial residence and diplomatic centre, hotels, a non-functional financial centre and ela-borate cultural complexes in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando of dubious usefulness. These buildings were constructed at the cost of billions of dollars and the Government has spent hundreds of millions to host two international conferences while this faithful PNM constituency regresses. It is not only that the physical infrastructure of Laventille continues to deteriorate but, most importantly, the human condition worsens.
Crime is making life impossible for law-abiding residents of the area as hundreds of its young men are locked in a deadly and utterly senseless war, killing each other over drugs, turf and out of pure ignorance. So bad has crime become that the premier steelband of Laventille, Witco Desperadoes, has moved out of the area during the Carnival season to give comfort to its supporters who want to visit the panyard. Yet, in a bewildering flight of fancy, the Prime Minister reflected on the success of the St Barbs community's crime reduction programme, and from there concluded that "it may well be that this meeting in Laventille tonight is the beginning of the complete eradication of the crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago...and may turn out to be the most significant meeting of its type ever held in T&T."
Unfortunately, the deficit in fulfilling its responsibilities to the security of the nation is not going to be closed by fanciful political rhetoric. Neither are the problems of crime and social development in Laventille to be solved by political ole talk about death threats and who "fraid and ent fraid" to go into Laventille. People have the right to support a political party of their choice, inclusive of the right of the people of Laventille to support the PNM. However, such support ought not be unconditional, blind and based on emotion or on how their parents and grandparents aligned themselves politically. PNM supporters in the area must recognise that the party's leadership is sensing that it is in trouble politically and that explains this out-of-season wooing by the political directorate.
From there, the residents of Laventille, whether they support the PNM or not, must begin to make serious demands on the party and Government to come good on 50-year-old unrealised promises made to their parents and grandparents. These are people who are not political innocents. They have provided the backbone of the support base of the PNM. Even in the darkest hour of the PNM, core Laventille provided two of the three seats won by the party in 1986. The residents of the area must not settle for an evening of "sweet talk" and yet more clever promises. Laventille cannot continue being the victim. It needs to confront the ruling party and make demands of it that would lead to a higher quality of life–more jobs, more services, more leisure opportunities and retail outlets and much, much less crime.