THE EDITOR: It is very unfortunate but there seems to be developing a repeat of the Tobago-Sandals situation with the proposed construction of the Toco port.
A small group of experts and people who have demonstrated no interest in the development of the Toco area for the last 25 years are now identifying numerous reasons why the port should not be built.
A few months ago, at the first consultation on the construction of the port, with dozens of people outside of the hall, I did not identify any “local residents” who indicated that the people of the area were against this major development.
There were some probing questions, with many suggestions also made in relation to how the project could be advanced with greater awareness of local residents. The few dissenting voices were mainly from a couple absentee holiday-homeowners and a journalist.
Over 20 years ago, the first attempt to construct a port in Toco was blocked by the involvement and leadership of people from Port of Spain and a few prominent locals.
The development was badly handled by the administration at the time, specifically the uncertainty associated with the scale of the project and resettlement issues. Politics also played “ole mas” with policy, as the opposition of the day opposed the construction of the port.
This time around, the attacks against the project are coming almost exclusively from people (experts) from outside of the community. At the first consultation, I reminded the gathering that the people of Toco needed to be careful of a repeat of the situation which unfolded in Tobago.
There are prominent people who were born in Toco but due to various challenges are unable to lend their voices to support this significant project for the transformation of the area. I respect their positions in which some are young professionals and others are considering business options.
All developmental projects would have advantages and disadvantages and the Toco port is no exception. But the “experts” only advanced negative impacts of the project while an objective assessment of the social and economic advancement of the community is disregarded.
There is a false narrative that the residents of the area do not want this type of development. However, an independent survey of residents would confirm the overwhelming support for the project.
Just recently, as a freelance journalist, I wrote some articles about Carnival but changed my mind about submitting them to a newspaper, after I became disappointed with the management of this year’s edition of the festival.
However, I was forced to say something about the Toco port situation when I recently saw a very aggressive article in one of the Sunday newspapers condemning the project without seriously analysing the position of the residents.
If mine’s is considered a voice crying in the wilderness, so let it be written.