LA BREA is one of the most depressed constituencies in Trinidad. High unemployment, poor infrastructure, lack of educational opportunities are but a few of the ills.
It is also one of the largest constituencies and because of its geographic layout –, stretching all the way to Palo Seco, Los Iros, Erin on one end to Point Fortin on the other – one of the most difficult to manage.
Yet five candidates, all newbies, are vying to contest this seat which has always had leanings to the PNM. That momentum was broken only once by Dr Albert Richards for the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) during that now famous 33-3 sweep in 1986.
Representing the PNM this time around is Stephen McClashie, Victor Roberts is running for the UNC, Marlon Greaves for the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) has offered Rondoll Glasgow and Callum Marshall represents the New National Vision (NNV) in the five-way race for the seat.
All five are confident of securing the majority of the over 25,000 eligible votes to secure one of the 41 seats up for grabs in the Parliament.
Greaves, a former prison officer turned contractor is hoping to introduce a third party to the Parliament as the representative for the town that pitch built.
A son of the soil who still lives in Sobo Village, Greaves said he is tired of neglect and poor representation and would very much like to see La Brea on the front burner of TT’s development.
In fact, poor representation is what spurred Glasgow and Marshall, also La Brea home grown, to try be a part of a solution rather than just complaining.
Marshall said, while he considered politics to be a bad word, he was simply fed up with just talking about what is wrong with the country but doing nothing about it.
“So I decided to offer up myself for service to the people.”
Greaves said while he welcomed the new highway extension into Point Fortin he forsees some fall out from the project that, he says, will leave residents unprepared with even less money in circulation.
He explained when Petrotrin and Trinmar closed down and jobs were lost, people adapted and opened up roadside businesses.
“With the advent of the highway to Point Fortin people of La Brea will again have to adapt because the traffic on which they depended to sustain their business will be diverted and those small businesses will lose income.”
President of both the Sobo Village Council and the La Brea General Council, Greaves says La Brea can continue to produce athletes of the calibre of Gus Logie, Kenwyn Jones, Philbert Jones, Anthony Rougier, Larry Joseph, Avery John and Floyd “Ninja” Lawrence with the right facilities and training.
One of his main aims is to empower civil society in accordance with one of the United Nation’s 19 sustainable goals to achieve clean and affordable energy.
“The world is moving away from fossil fuels and adapting to clean energy. The UN is funding civil society in these areas and La Brea can benefit once we have programmes and funding to train our people to manufacture for example, solar panels, service them, install them and even look at the opportunity to export these panels.”
He said three NGO’s are in readiness to access international funding.
Victor Roberts, a community activist who lives in Palo Seco, unsuccessfully contested local elections in the past.
This time around he said he already has his suit prepared to take his oath of office as MP. He too wants to see real development in La Brea.
National Gas Company’s (NGC) executive McClashie was the last candidate selected by the PNM and among 17 screened for the seat which was expected to be contested by former Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte before Le Hunte resigned from his post.
As the screening committee continued rejecting candidates, McClashie said he was approached at the constituency level and believing he had reached a place where he was comfortable to move to a different level of service, he offered himself and the rest is history.
Having been involved in the Rotary Service, Jaycees, taught extra-mural, served on the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) board as well as on the board of Lake Asphalt until he was selected as a candidate, McClashie believes he has contributed to the development of the south west peninsula in different spheres and is best poised to continue doing so as an elected representative.
Aware of the many ills plaguing the constituency, McClashie said he is seeking to create an economic development plan for the entire south west peninsula for the next 20-25 years so they can treat with development in a holistic way rather than in silos.
He said La Brea has been identified as one of the areas lagging behind in terms of education at the SEA level and he is looking to integrate with the Ministry of Education a primary to post primary, secondary to skills training scheme.
He said while there are a lot skill based training programmes they are not suitable for the kind of projects available in the area.
“A lot of it (skills) has been focused on a petroleum-type craft but you understand the petroleum industry is not at the place it use to be. So the levels of jobs that would be created are no longer viable for keeping NESC.”