He was shot in the left side of the chest while campaigning for local government elections in 2016, but Victor Roberts has returned as an independent candidate and has vowed to fight till his “last breath” to become a councillor.
The 52-year-old businessman is one of two independent candidates from the Palo Seco/Erin Justice Committee vying for seats in the December 2 local government elections.
Roberts said: “My lungs were punctured, and I have lost the use of my left hand. I also had a shattered rib and some spinal damage.
"I survived by the grace of God.
"I am going to fight with the last breath and last drop of blood in my body in this election.”
He is contesting the Palo Seco municipal district of the Siparia Regional Corporation (SRC).
While campaigning at Palo Seco on November 26, 2016, Roberts was shot while in the tray of a van. He had emergency surgery at the San Fernando General Hospital. Owing to his condition, he was unable to leave the hospital to vote for himself two days later.
However, he got 602 votes, 65 more votes than the United National Congress candidate. The PNM’s Christine Neptune won the seat with 1,845 votes. She has been replaced by Dana O'Neil-Gervais, an attorney.
No one was held for the shooting.
Roberts said, “I beat the UNC on that occasion, even though I did not get to vote.
"I am always a threat in the community in relation to political affairs. We (he and his supporters) made a dent then, but we are going to take the seat on this occasion.”
The real fight is with the PNM, he said, describing the candidates for the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and UNC as “ a waste of time.”
Roberts is chairman of the committee and Kenny Peters, 63, a retiree from the now-defunct Petrotrin, is vice chairman. Peters is contesting the Erin seat against the PNM’s incumbent, Arlene Ramdeo, and first-timer Crystal Bernard of the MSJ.
“We deal with all the issues that affect Palo Seco and Erin. While everybody is now starting, we have been on the field for the past two and a half years. While they are trying to catch up, we are way in front,” Roberts told Sunday Newsday.
SRC is a UNC-controlled corporation with nine districts. The 2016 results from the Elections and Boundaries Commission show there was a 41.82 per cent turnout, which represented 29,937 votes cast. Of those, 14,934 went to the UNC, 14,105 to the PNM, 602 to Roberts and 55 to the Congress of the People.
It was a close call for the opposition party, having won five seats and the PNM four. It previously held six seats. Problems began to brew when the SRC’s former chairman Leo Doodnath declared himself independent, causing a deadlock. Amid controversy, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh was elected chairman.
So far, representatives from all the parties are confident of a victory.
Ramadharsingh’s mother Chandra Ramadharsingh, councillor for Otaheite/Rousillac, has bowed out after serving for nine years. In a Facebook post on Thursday, she thanked burgesses “for their love, support and appreciation.”
She endorsed the UNC candidate, saying: “I now stand firm in my support of Javed Mohammed who I am certain will be the next councillor of Otaheite /Rousillac.”
The PNM’s candidate is Anand Ramsumair-Maharaj.
PNM Siparia West/Fyzabad incumbent Maurice Alexander is challenging Jason Ali of the UNC.
UNC’s Ramona Victor is seeking the Siparia East/San Francique South seat, formerly held by Doodnath. Donnelle Halls-Alexander is contesting for the PNM.
PNM first-timer Natkether Richards is hoping to win the Avocat/San Francique North, now held by UNC incumbent councillor Doodnath Mayrhoo.
Jahstar Gittens is hoping to win Brighton/Vessigny on a UNC ticket.
But incumbent Gerald Debesette believes PNM will retain its seat. In 2016, he received 2,062 votes to the UNC’s 372.
Debesette said, “The UNC won the Otaheite /Rousillac seat by only 135 votes. I am confident because I won by over 2,000 votes in all three terms.”
Rasheed Mohammed is up against Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh.
Incumbent Mon Desir councillor Deryck Collin Bowrin will square off with PNM’s Allan Pierre.
Five of the 28 candidates from the MSJ are contesting seats at the SRC. Apart from Bernard, the others are Wayne Cyrus (Palo Seco), Brian Campbell (Brighton/Vessigny), Steven Baxam (Fyzabad/Siparia West) and Winston Wilson (Mon Desir).
Burgesses are divided about which candidates will win seats. At Palo Seco junction, 72-year-old Oniel Gabriel expressed confidence in the PNM.
He said, “I grew up in a PNM home, in a Catholic home. I can never change. Win, lose or draw, I (am) voting for PNM.”
Another resident, Dave Francis, said he had not decided who to vote for.
A resident of Field Road, San Flora, was not aware who the candidates are for the area. But she called on the authorities to provide potable water and streetlights.
A fruit vendor at SS Erin Road, San Flora, Jassodra Ramkhalawan, said there has not been much campaigning in the area except for the independent candidates.
“I don’t know if I am voting. Politicians make promises before elections and never fulfil them. They just forget about the people.”