THE EDITOR: I looked on as, with great fanfare, the PNM launched its Central Regional Office or “Balisier House Central,” prominently placed on the Southern Main Road in the Chaguanas East constituency.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley called on central to support the PNM, stating, “You have tried the rest, now try the best, the PNM.”
In the ensuing days at least two elected UNC officials have come out attacking the PNM’s advancement into what has traditionally been seen as UNC territory.
The UNC MP for Couva North, in anger and disbelief, stated that the PNM will not be given a chance. A former ILP member turned UNC councillor echoed the same sentiments, insinuating the PNM has no place in central.
However, if we look at the history of the region, the PNM has played an intricate role in the development of central and has always been at the centre of its advancement.
It was a PNM government in 1975 that decided the local assets of the Tate and Lyle sugar company, which was ready to leave our shores, should come under state ownership.
Given the importance of the sugar industry, especially to employment and the economy in central Trinidad, this was seen as a critical industry to maintain at the time.
Thus, Caroni 1975 Ltd was created and maintained at taxpayers’ expense and continued for at least 25 years, until we finally lost our market in Europe and the inevitable closure occurred.
An entire generation and their families benefitted from the employment created and the opportunities provided by Caroni 1975 Ltd, a major portion of whom would have resided in central.
A PNM government under Dr Eric Williams looked at the rural sugar-producing landscape of central and decided that this should be the location of the most advanced industrial project in the country, the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.
Williams famously stated in 1976, “Sugar cane gives way to wire rods,” capturing the vision of the industrialisation of a rural sugar-producing region of the country and the upliftment of its people in the process.
Indeed, the development of Point Lisas has changed the landscape of central, creating job opportunities and developing and enhancing the central economy and infrastructure as connecting industries flourished.
Imagine where Couva, California, Claxton Bay and surrounding areas would be if the Point Lisas Industrial Estate was not established where it was.
The vast educational opportunities created under the PNM benefitted the children of sugar workers the most, as the access to free secondary education, on a meritocracy system, allowed children of poverty-stricken families to acquire opportunities they would not have previously had.
The successful fight by a PNM government to allow denominational schools to open its doors to all students saw children of central flood into some of the most prestigious schools in the country.
Right here in central, Presentation College, Chaguanas, stands at the pinnacle of secondary institutions in this country as others follow closely behind. Indeed, many of those who criticise the party and its role in central, as is their right, would have been some of the beneficiaries of this education policy, which saw an entire generation become educated and lifted out of abject poverty, right here in central.
Added to these major long-standing, far-reaching policies and visionary development initiatives in central Trinidad, the PNM can take credit for the construction of a large number of primary and secondary schools, community centres, major infrastructure works and projects too numerous to mention, as well as the preservation of significant cultural landmarks such as the Temple in the Sea in Waterloo.
This thrust into the development of central continues with this PNM administration with initiatives such as the US$100 million industrial estate at Phoenix Park, which will bring manufacturing capacity, employment and economic benefits to the region.
The question is not whether the PNM has a chance in central or should be in central. The fact of the matter is that, whether in government or opposition, the PNM has been in central and will continue to make its presence felt as a serious political party and an instrument of development in the central region.
While the UNC’s grip over this region loosens (having lost constituencies and electoral districts in the last decade), the PNM will continue, as it always has, to represent all people in all areas across the country, being the truly only national party that it is.