WORKS and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan rejected claims from UNC Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh that Chatham was being neglected.
Speaking with reporters after examining completed slope stabilisation and rehabilitation works at Reservoir Hill in Point Fortin on Tuesday, Sinanan said Teelucksingh knew the work on the landslip was ongoing and the protest was held on the same day that a contractor was mobilising to address it.
He said it was public knowledge the landslip happened just before Christmas. Sinanan added he spent his entire Christmas season working with his ministry's Highways Division to ensure the landslip was repaired before Christmas.
Part of that work involved WASA securing its lines in the area. Sinanan lamented that two days after Christmas, a WASA line burst in the area and the landslip reoccurred.
He observed the protest happened hours before the contractor began working on the landslip. Sinanan said this response was not because of the protest but part of the work plan to address the landslip.
"I don't want to believe that somebody knows the ministry is coming to fix something and he organise a protest the day before," he said. Sinanan dismissed a reporter's suggestion that he was implying the protest was politically motivated.
But he said, "We are seeing that behaviour and it is unfortunate when you have vulnerable people." Sinanan said perpetuating that behaviour on vulnerable people can anger them unnecessarily.
He said the ministry does not respond to protests or does its work based on constituencies. Sinanan explained that minor and major landslips in the country are addressed in terms of priority and funding. In the case of slope works at Reservoir Hill, Sinanan said those cost $4.5 million and were completed in six months.
Sinanan said money saved on those works were used to pave the road, which was not part of the original job. He added that were those works not done, it would have cut off residents of Reservoir Hill from the rest of Point Fortin.
Sinanan also rejected the suggestion that the ministry's road paving works were linked to this year's general elections. He said paving works at Reservoir Hill happened last May. Sinanan also said the ministry recently paved a road in the El Socorro South district which is represented by a UNC council. He added that councillor posted a video on social media praising the ministry for that job.
Sinanan said, "If you don't pave they blame you for the condition of the road, When you pave, they say its elections."
He added, "I prefer to take the election licks because people always tie things to elections for one reason, because it's good."
Sinanan opined, "Maybe we should have elections every year." Point Fortin MP Edmund Dillon thanked the Works and Transport Ministry for the slope repairs. Dillon said a major landslip happened at Reservoir Hill between 2015 and 2016.
Had this not been fixed, Dillon said a major connector road between Point Fortin and communities like Cedros and Buenos Ayres would have been blocked.