After consecutive elections when there have been only two parties to choose from, voters living in the constituency of St Augustine now are spoiled for choice, with five candidates contesting the seat.
The five are Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal for the PNM, Khadijah Ameen for the UNC, Satesh Ramsaran for the Progressive Empowerment Party, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan for the COP and Inshan Ishmael, who is running as an independent.
The former MP, who was not chosen to re-contest the seat, is Prakash Ramadhar of the COP.
Newsday visited the constituency on Monday and interviewed people from the communities of Curepe, Tunapuna, and Tacarigua, to get a feel of what is happening on the ground.
Pharmacist Crystal Sahadeo, who lives in St Augustine and runs the Crystal View Pharmacy on the Southern Main Road in Curepe, said she wasn’t aware that there were five candidates, nor what their plans were.
“I haven’t seen any candidates walking in Curepe yet, but last Tuesday I saw the PNM and UNC candidates in St Augustine. I haven’t seen any of the other candidates yet.
"At home, I’m satisfied with how things run, except that we’ve recently started having issues. Here in Curepe, the verges are cut, the garbage is picked up regularly, but the drains smell and there’s a problem with rats.”
A business owner living in St Augustine and based opposite the Tunapuna Market, who did not want to be identified, said while she did not want to comment on the performance of the former MP, the conditions where she works were good.
“I opposite the market. Every day it’s sweeping, cleaning, garbage taking out and water truck coming to wash it down.
"When we used to get flooded out in the back of St Augustine and we would wake up with our beds wet. When Khadijah (Ameen) was in power (as chairman of the Tunapuna/ Piarco Regional Corporation)...I never got even a sliced bread. But they have their people that they give out to who will work for them.
"I don’t know what the MP does do.”
She said having five candidates would split the vote and “mash up” the election.
“Who supposed to win wouldn’t get chance to win. I don’t know what around here have, that five people would want to contest.”
Tunapuna market vendor Thelma Mahabir said where she lives is flooded regularly and the UNC councillors for the area will bring food for her, especially Ameen. She said she doesn’t think Ramadhar represented the area in Parliament. She said she isn’t able to leave her house at nights to attend meetings because she is fearful for her safety.
“I don’t know the five people running for the seat, I don’t know them. I standing by Khadijah. When it have funeral in the area she does come in the wake, funeral service, funeral, I will stand by her.”
Tunapuna market vendor Roland Wills said he thinks political parties are putting things in place and cleaning up for the upcoming election and he hopes they will continue afterwards, whichever party comes into power.
“The two parties clash, and that is their problem, but I wish they could come together to form one party for the good of TT. But that will never happen. And then those on the ground will fight to get things done. Every individual is trying their best.
"I just want them to put things in place for people to live.”
Tacarigua resident and corporation worker Jerry Richards said the community is kept in good condition, except for garbage collection. He said the former MP worked well and sometimes former MP for Tunapuna Esmond Forde helped too.
“I’ve been living here 17 years. Prakash has been working hard. The ones before worked now and then. If they come here and not working well, we will run them.
"Khadijah was a good chairman for the corporation, but we will vote for the PNM candidate. The PNM councillor, Josiah, is a good one for us: he fixed up the grounds, he got lights for us.”
A businessman from Curepe said the state of the community is good, as other communities have it worse.
“Election is bobol, it doesn’t matter who goes where. The government made a lot of promises for the covid and we want to know what we will get before they go out of power.
"There’s no representation in Parliament, it’s all about the friends and families of the politicians.
"Whichever party wins the election, we want to see grassroots foundation. We want to see minister caring about small businesses and poor people, not only big companies getting contracts that don’t go anywhere and then when governments switch the projects are left unfinished.
"Only certain businesses will get loan approvals or business approvals from government. The garbage on the side of the road will stay there, we don’t have a corporation to take care of us. It’s a fightdown between Indians and Negroes, and not about who is doing better for the community.”
The businessman said during the stay-at-home period, UNC councillors came and gave out hampers, but he didn’t see the MP or any PNM councillors. He said this is not the way to win a constituency.
“If you don’t have a stronghold in a community, you have to work on those communities, don’t neglect them and the road bad, businesses shut down, we want to see a total love.
"Khadijah is more the area person, but people want change. You never know what might come, but she is a top runner.
"Five people running for the seat is just to show nobody really knows what’s going on in the area. Five people coming to do the same thing, and one person could overthrow everything.
"They’re fighting for a seat, but after that you don’t see them.”