RESIDENTS of Sangre Grande say they are being asked to pose for photos in order to receive bread and water. It isn’t explicitly said that they have to, but when they go for relief supplies, they are asked to take pictures.
“I got a case of water but left the bread when they asked me for a picture,” one resident of Mc Shine Street, Sangre Grande, said, adding that she felt uncomfortable.
The resident’s name has been omitted from this story, as she works in a government agency and fears being victimised, but Newsday was able to speak to other residents of Sangre Grande who said they had similar experiences.
“When we realised no one was coming to help, we went to the civic centre. When I got there I saw mattresses and things that we needed, and the woman there told me I had to wait for the minister (MP Glenda Jennings-Smith), as she had to distribute them.
“I needed cleaning supplies, but I couldn’t get that. I asked for water and the volunteer said I needed to ask the councillor, the councillor said I needed to ask the chairman – and I eventually got it.”
People at the centre said they were also being directed back and forth between the centre and the regional corporation to register for grants.
“I know volunteers are dropping stuff at the community centre, but it isn’t getting to some places in the community,” said another resident.
Mangaldai Narine, a shopkeeper who moved to Sangre Grande in 1987, and also lives on Mc Shine Street says while she saw the councillor once, they did not bring aid.
“It was terrible. All now we are on a cleaning campaign. Nobody come to ask what we need up to now. They told us go to the regional corporation to put down our names but nobody came. They said leave these damaged things outside, but they are smelling bad. How long must we keep it for them to come and see it? It smells bad.” She said while she initially hoped help would come from government agencies, she was happy when her children made it through the flood waters to assist with cleaning.
“I have a parlour and I have to throw away all my stock. None of it is good, I can’t sell that to people. I have to go and get new stock, because that is how I make a living.
“I’ve been here and nobody is coming.”
Newsday tried to call both Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman Terry Rondon and MP Jennings-Smith to discuss the process and policy for aid distribution, but neither answered calls to their cellphones.
Yesterday, television reports also showed residents complaining of the lack of access to aid in the Sangre Grande area.
In a brief telephone interview Minister of Social Development and Family Services , Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, whose ministry will be responsible for disbursement of the $25 million fund announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday, said the government’s position did not involve asking for photos.
“As you would have heard from Minister Young, we are on the ground doing the work. You may also have noticed we did not dictate to the media that we were going certain places because it is not about a photo opportunity,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.
“To go to the length that you have to tell someone you have to pose, it is demeaning and worse in a disaster situation to say to someone to pose before giving them relief, that is definitely not the position from the Government perspective.”
Crichlow-Cockburn advised Newsday to contact Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, who she said had a leading role at the relief distribution centre in Arouca but Robinson-Regis did not answer calls at the time.