The slogan for Sharon Maraj-Dharam’s campaign reads: Let’s make Barataria safe again.
It’s an allusion to the crime situation in her area–one which she feels is already out of hand.
“You are not safe, day or night. The crime is on a daily basis throughout the constituency,” says Maraj-Dharam, the United National Congress (UNC) candidate for Barataria in the July 16 local government by-election.
Representation in the electoral district became vacant after the death of People’s National Movement councillor Pernell Bruno on July 8, 2017.
Maraj-Dharam said in recent weeks, there have been at least three robberies at homes in Barataria, all of which are engaging the attention of police.
She blamed the situation on rising youth unemployment.
“There are no jobs so that is where the people are heading now, so they are looking to see what they are getting elsewhere. The youths are the ones doing all of the crime because they are desperate.”
To address the menace in the tightly-knit district, Maraj-Dharam, if elected, proposes to meet with members of the San Juan Business Association, “to see what we can put in place for these young people who don’t have anything.
She added: “I wish we had jobs for our children who have gone to school, who have studied and then come out here and there is nothing for them.
“The joblessness is one of the main reasons that these people are doing these things and I wish they (association) could do something about it.”
Saying societies must look out for its own, Maraj-Dharam, a homemaker, also wants to establish a neighbourhood watch group.
She said residents were being forced to “lock up themselves” inside of their homes.
“And if they see something, they don’t want to tell anybody.”
Maraj-Dharam has deep ties to Barataria and still lives in her childhood home at 12th Street, Fourth Avenue.
She completed her primary and secondary education at schools in the area and later attended university in Baltimore, Maryland, US, where she pursued studies in business administration. On her return to TT, she got married and had two children.
The UNC hopeful, a first-timer in the election race, said she decided to contest the electoral district to tackle some of its social and infrastructural challenges.
“I think the community needs a voice that we can take to the council and get representation. There are things we simply cannot do for ourselves and need assistance.”
On the hustings, Maraj-Dharam said she has been inundated with complaints about high food prices, sanitation, rodent infestation and pothole-riddled roads.
“When I walk, the people are very emotional and stressed. They are looking for some kind of light and hope.”
Maraj-Dharam said there were other major challenges affecting residents which needed to be addressed by the party at a national level. Asked about her vision for the community, if elected, she declared: “Unity for all, whether you are a PNM, UNC, PEP (People’s Empowerment Party) or MSJ (Movement for Social Justice).”
Maraj-Dharam said she was fed up of “race issues rearing its head” from time to time.
“At the end of the day, we all have to live together. We all have to communicate and be each-other’s keeper.”