LETTER TO THE EDITOR
May 09, 2022
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Mrs Rosemarie Sant,
Trinidad Guardian Newspapers,
St. Vincent Street,
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development notes, with concern, two (2) articles carried in your editions of Sunday May 1 and Thursday May 5, 2022 respectively, each expressing concern about the apparent lack of Government focus on the communities of East Port-of -Spain, and unwittingly or not, perpetuating the narrative that these communities remain neglected and underserved by this Government, when the truth, available to your newspapers, is ignored.
As the Minister charged with responsibility for Housing and Urban Development, I can assure you that while this Government has responsibility for the growth and development of the entire country, the communities of East Port-of-Spain remain the only ones with a dedicated special purpose company, established solely to look after their development. The East Port-of-Spain Development Company (EPOSDC) has been on the ground and working with these communities, and while its work may not be trumpeted from the rooftops, numerous attempts continue to be made to get your newspapers and other media houses to provide coverage for events hosted by the EPOSDC, to showcase the very antithesis espoused by your staff, albeit with very little success.
As an example, on April 26, 2022 the EPOSDC held a launch and orientation exercise for its third cohort of “Education to Production – Construction Skills Programme” trainees. Sixty-six (66) young persons, drawn from a pool of over 400 applicants, will over the next five (5) months, beginning on May 16, receive hands-on training in Carpentry, Masonry, Welding, Plumbing, Electrical Wiring, and Heavy Equipment operations. Invitations were sent to all media houses, including your own, to provide coverage for this event, but to our dismay, and that of the participants, not a single media house attended. A subsequent press release issued by the Ministry was also studiously ignored by all traditional media, only finding some favour with Loop TT.
To suggest therefore, as your columnist Curtis Williams has, that there is a “continued lack of progressive action to assist these communities” is to look at the truth with very jaundiced eyes, or worse, to deliberately use valuable editorial space to wage a war that has nothing to do with the residents of these communities, and everything to do with personal angst. Even more telling, is his conclusion that this “has a direct economic impact on the entire country,” which is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to shroud with a veneer of civility the same stigmatization that the EPOSDC and residents of these communities are seeking to dispel. Adherence to basic journalistic principles would have led both your writers to the EPOSDC or me, where the facts, stubborn as they are, would have put paid to their inaccurate inferences and conclusions.
In his desire to castigate this Government and the People’s National Movement, Mr. Williams finds solace in the words of a report which delineates ways “to tackle the challenge of at-risk communities to make them more sustainable. For example, these programmes may offer recreation, job training, drug abuse prevention and community-based child care.” This notwithstanding, he condescendingly dismisses the construction of swimming pools, a viable form of recreation, drug abuse prevention and community building, in the communities in which he is allegedly interested.
Moreover, the very programme which your media house, though invited, failed to provide coverage, is providing sustainable skills training to scores of unemployed youths in these communities, while also providing them with the requisite coveralls and safety boots, meals and transport to the various training venues, thus allowing them the opportunity to become valuable contributors to the national economy. Already, 150 youths have graduated from this programme and another 66 will soon start training. I have no doubt that the Revitalization of the City of Port of Spain project, which includes major construction initiatives, will benefit tremendously from the skills of these and other residents of East Port of Spain, as will the construction of The Grande Savanna, a private sector initiative to construct a nine-storey edifice around the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Both your journalists appear ignorant of the fact that the Government, through the National Library and Information Systems Authority (NALIS), has opened a Library on the Beetham Estate, and has engaged in numerous other projects, through the EPOSDC which will redound to the benefit of the residents of East Port Spain. Another project is the construction of the Music Stars Pan Theatre which is approximately 95 per cent complete and just about ready to be handed over to the Band’s Executive. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts has also, through UDECOTT, begun construction of the Pan Theatre for the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.
During the pandemic EPOSDC distributed over 200 hampers to bring relief to needy families in the communities of east POS (100 in 2020 and 100 in 2021).
In October 2020, EPOSDC donated over 30 Tablets to students at the Beetham Government Primary School to facilitate online learning, thus ensuring that children in East Port-of-Spain were able to continue their education. In 2021, with the assistance of corporate sponsors, another 60 Tablets were donated to the Beetham Government Primary School, and laptops were donated to the students who performed well in the 2021 SEA exam. Tablets were also donated to assist children of families who lost their homes in a fire on Quarry Street on New Year’s Day 2022. The MPs for the area also consistently do their part effectively and efficiently.
Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic and public health restrictions on gatherings prevented EPOSDC from implementing its Social and Economic Programme during much of the past two years, some programmes were delivered online, providing opportunities for skills development and training. Since October 2021, EPOSDC has successfully completed programmes in Creating the Beats – a music production programme; Photography and Digital Art; Cooking with Confidence; Soft Furnishings, Graphic Design and Glass Engraving.
At the Basilon Street Boxing Gym, established by the EPOSDC in 2018, the Boxing Training Programme involves youth from communities in East POS, including Beetham, Sea Lots and East Dry River. One of the young boxers who trains there, 18-year-old Juan Rodriguez, represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Pan Am Youth Games in Colombia in November 2021, while other boxers have successfully represented Trinidad and Tobago at other regional events.
The EPOSDC has also sponsored 12 students to participate in a programme “Social Entrepreneurship to Fight Poverty” hosted by the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in collaboration with Finland’s 4H Learning Limited. Support and financial assistance were also provided to the “Grown in Gonzales” urban agricultural project in collaboration with the Volunteer Centre of Trinidad and Tobago (VCTT) and the Digicel Foundation. A similar grow box project was launched at the Chinapoo Community Centre and more recently, on April 10, one was launched at the Sea Lots East Community Garden with financial assistance and support. EPOSDC and VCTT have been working with a group from St. Barbs to establish similar urban agricultural project, based on livestock farming.
I am also attaching for ease of reference a list of other projects targeting the communities of East Port-of-Spain, that are in varying stages of readiness. All this information has been and is available to any journalist, including your own, who is actually interested in obtaining an accurate and timely picture of the goings on within the communities of East Port-of-Spain. I am certain you will glean from all the information provided that there are many positive things happening within East Port-of-Spain and environs for the benefit of its residents.
Minister of Housing and Urban Development