St Augustine candidates say the development of the constituency is high priority should they be elected as the MP. Newsday spoke to the three candidates as they filed nomination papers on Friday.
PNM candidate Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal said her campaign is based around the watchwords – restore, rebuild and renew. She said she found many people had lost faith in their MPs over the years, saying they only saw their representatives at election time. She said it would be critical to rebuild the faith and belief of constituents in their elected representatives by delivering on promises made.
“People have every right to feel they have not been represented, but it is now the responsibility to change that opinion of the public and restore public belief and trust in those who hold the highest offices of the land, who promised to represent everyone. As soon as you take office and take that oath, that oath is not only to serve PNM people or UNC people or PEP people, once you attain that office, you take oath to serve every single citizen of TT and your constituency, irrespective of creed, race or political side.”
She said rebuilding spoke primarily to the need for infrastructural repair and development to deal with flooding, especially in Oropune and Spring Village, drainage, roads such as those in Monte Grande, and other issues affecting the constituency.
UNC candidate Khadijah Ameen said issues facing the community include land regularisation, unemployment, crime, traffic, and flooding.
“As MP, the first thing I will do is build a community network within the community to allow good relationships to be developed between the people, the community and their representatives, including myself as MP, and the councillors. There are so many NGOs who supported us during the flooding and continue to support us and we will continue to work with them to get the St Augustine constituency working again.”
COP leader and candidate Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said she wished Ameen and the other candidates the best in the election, but appealed to them to do away with the music trucks as CSEC and CAPE exams are taking place, and students will also be studying for SEA between July 20 and August 20. She said their campaign would be a quiet one, with a focus on education.
She said the COP – previously part of the 2010-2015 People' Partnership administration – is aiming to provide an independent voice in Parliament, to hold both the government and opposition to account. She said positions adopted by MPs must be approved by constituents through a formal citizen engagement process, which she hopes to put in place.
Seepersad-Bachan said she had identified six areas for development in St Augustine through consultation with constituents. These included: UWI as an education hub, along with micro-industries to serve the students and through which they could earn income; more micro-industries in Macoya for young people in technology; areas of entrepreneurship in the Bamboo; agriculture in St Augustine, including farming cooperatives, agro-processing and packaging; entertainment at the Eddie Hart Grounds in Tacarigua; and an airport museum.
PEP candidate Satesh Ramsaran said the issues faced by the constituency included a lack of jobs, high crime, flooding, and a lack of representation. He wondered why land tenure is still an issue as he said the area has been traditionally UNC-based, and the party could have assisted its members while it was in Parliament.
He said his vision for St Augustine was that it should be an agro-processing powerhouse in TT.
“We have acres of land doing nothing, and with our proximity to the airport, we could be exporting food, reducing the food import bill, and earning foreign exchange. This would also require the building of infrastructure in St Augustine, including roads and a water management system, and would create jobs.”
Ramsaran said as an MP he would advocate for recall legislation, so that MPs could be fired if they did not deliver on election promises, as well as the abolition of local government to be replaced by a constituency board of supervisors with responsibility for works, utilities, health, security and education and overseen by the MP. He said this system would answer to the public, as the current local government system did not work due to partisanship.
Activist Inshan Ishmael said he decided not to contest the election as he did not want to take time away from his family and he did not have the “belly” to work side by side with those who are destroying the country. He said he would continue his community work.