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Friday 24 May 2019
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Palo Seco ‘conversation’ goes on without PM

La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre responds to a Palo Seco resident during Thursday night's Conversation with the Prime Minister. Energy Minister Franklin Khan (left) and Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte look on. Photo by Vashti Singh
La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre responds to a Palo Seco resident during Thursday night's Conversation with the Prime Minister. Energy Minister Franklin Khan (left) and Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte look on. Photo by Vashti Singh

CARICOM commitments regarding the political crisis in Venezuela, TT's closest neighbour, kept Dr Keith Rowley from attending his Conversations with the Prime Minister engagement in Palo Seco Thursday night.

This was announced by the event's MC about 30 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin.

Cacophonous cries of dismay, and even anger from some sections of the crowd indicated how the audience at the Palo Seco Government Primary School took the news.

Protesters leave the Palo Seco Government Primary School on Thursday night after it is announced that the Prime Minister would not attend. Photo by Vashti Singh.

While a group of protesters quickly rose from their seats and left the premises, the majority of those present seemed willing to have a conversation with Energy Minister Franklin Khan, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte, La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre and Housing Minister Edmund Dillon.

Khan's introduction – brief remarks about the energy sector and projects proposed by Government – was followed by questions similar to those posed in other communities at previous events.

One man asked why Petrotrin was closed "if it was making a profit," to which Khan replied that it was actually making a loss.

A resident speaks about Petrotrin during the Conversations with the Prime Minister at Palo Seco Government Primary School on Thursday night. Photo by Kalifa Sarah Clyne

"Our MP does not stand with us," said one impassioned resident. His MP, Olivierre, responded that it was unfortunate he felt so, but she disagreed with his observation.

A man complained that the event had started without playing the national anthem, something which had occurred in past Conversations. Khan said this could be easily rectified and so the anthem was sung and a prayer recited by Dillon, after the conversation had begun

A woman, who put on record that she was a squatter, asked why, in 2019, she had to live without electricity. Olivierre answered but the woman was not satisfied with this. Le Hunte promised that he would make inquiries.

A man complained that the community rarely had water. Le Hunte said he was aware the area only received water one day a week but promised to address the situation.

A form five student made an articulate plea to the panel to repair his school so that he can resume his education and focus on his aspiration to be prime minister one day.

Residents await the start of Conversation with the Prime Minister at the Palo Seco Government Primary School on Thursday night. Photo by Kalifa Sarah Clyne

Minister in the Ministry of Education Lovell Francis said his school was on a list, with other schools waiting for funding so work could begin.

There were no questions on Venezuela, crime, Sandals or other issues engaging national attention.

Instead the conversation residents wanted to have revolved around Petrotrin and its still unfolding impact on the communities in South Trinidad which were heavily reliant on its jobs and its magnanimity. They also wanted to raise issues related to failures which could be attributed to local government and public utilities.

Palo Seco residents wanted drains, proper roads, water, electricity and other infrastructural needs, echoing similar comments in other parts of the country.

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