Diego Central voters: We don't know the candidates

Vegetable vendor Nathaniel Richards who sells off the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard, Diamond Vale, Diego Martin, speaks about elections. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Vegetable vendor Nathaniel Richards who sells off the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard, Diamond Vale, Diego Martin, speaks about elections. - SUREASH CHOLAI

OF the 41 constituencies being contested in Monday's general election Diego Martin Central and Laventille West have the most candidates – six each.

But in the former, a number of constituents do not know who the candidates are other than the PNM candidate Symon de Nobriga.

Also contesting the seat are John Laquis for the UNC, Felicia Holder of the Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP), Ashton Francis of the New National Vision (NNV), Reneé St Rose of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and Garvin Nicholas for the Movement for National Development (MND).

The constituency has long been a PNM stronghold. In the 2015 election the PNM won by a landslide, with Darryl Smith receiving 13,258 votes (77.02 per cent) followed by the National Joint Action Committee candidate Embau Moheni with 2,969 votes (17.25 per cent).

Crystal Stream, Petit Valley. - SUREASH CHOLAI

Smith, however, was not screened for the seat this time. His political attractiveness plummeted after he was fired as Sport and Youth Affairs Minister in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Newsday visited the constituency last week and spoke to a few of its 27,465 electors.

A 36-year-old female resident of Sierra Leone Road said she found the representation by Smith was very poor.

"The major issues in the constituency – crime, car and home break-ins, bad roads and flooding – Darryl Smith never did anything to fix these issues. I visited his office to ask about a job once, and he was of no help."

On the sexual harassment allegations against him she felt they were "swept under the rug."

"It wasn't very transparent what really took place."

Roy Russel talk about the upcoming general election on Monday.

Roy Russell, 79, from Four Roads said he has no problems nor issues in the constituency except minor flooding when there is heavy rain. Asked his thoughts about Smith, he said he had never had any interaction with him.

"Whatever he do, that is his internal business. I never hear anything bad about him."

Of the candidates, Russell said he has never met any of them but he recognised Nicholas' name from when he was attorney general and High Commissioner to the UK under the UNC.

"But they wasting their time. They have no chance. It staying PNM."

Nikita Williams, 34, from Four Roads, said a major issue was potholes in the road, some with water leaking from them.

"They don't deal with it. It is there for days and days. They need to do get better. This is why the roads are so bad."

She added the potholes could damage passing vehicles.

Work continues to complete the new Diego Martin Health Centre on the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard in Central Diego Martin.

She also said the water supply was inconsistent and there were times when she did not get water for two-five days straight.

Ramsaran Arjoon-Gopaul, 74, from St Lucien Road, said there was a lack of development in the constituency.

"They not doing what they supposed to do. No environmental progress for the area."

He also expressed scepticism about recent government projects in the constituency.

"Three months before the election you open a community centre. You open this and that.

"Why you were not doing this all the time? It is to win the election. For the first three, four years you were doing nothing."

Ramsaran Arjune Gopaul talk about the upcoming general election on Monday.

Arjoon-Gopaul said the UNC is the PNM's biggest competition and the other parties would only "disrupt the voting public."

"PNM and UNC is the two in the race."

Salandy Samaroo-Sinanan, 69, and also from St Lucien Road, said he has been voting PNM since he was 18 and he was confident the party will be victorious again. Asked if had any issues in the constituency, he replied: "I never complain about PNM."

Salandy Samaroo Sinanan talk about the upcoming general election on Monday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

Brent Rodriguez, 42 from Simeon Road, said he had only seen the PNM candidate passing in the area and handing out jerseys.

"(But) it does not matter who (wins), they just need to do it for the people. Togetherness. Betterment for the children and grandchildren."

A female resident of Emerald Drive, Diamond Vale, said she has seen De Nobriga and has seen Laquis in a vehicle. Asked her prediction for the constituency, she said every political party has good and bad and she wanted to hear their plans and how they would be implemented.

A female resident from nearby Tiara Boulevard, Diamond Vale, said the only person she has seen during the campaign period is de Nobriga and she saw him just once.

"I don't know who the others are."

She said in previous elections the other parties would have dropped off flyers or other campaign material, but she received nothing this election.

Brent Rodriguez and Nikita Williams talk about the upcoming general election on Monday. - SUREASH CHOLAI

On crime in the area she said there was "petty stuff" such as break-ins, and her car battery was stolen.

"I went to report it, but I don't think the police did anything."

She said there were no problems for water in the "old vale," but she has heard people complaining on the "new vale" side – the two areas are separated by the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard.

Nathaniel Richards, 34, from Covigne Road, said he received water about once a week. He also revealed it would be his first time voting.

"Growing up as a youth, you believe they doing nothing for you. But there is something different when you cast your vote."

On the different parties he said none was perfect and each would have their own problems.

A 37-year-old male resident of Bagatelle said there needs to be more employment in the constituency as there were too many youths on the streets with no job opportunities. He said there should be more skills training programmes.

Customers line up for hot roti at Don's Roti shop on St Lucien Rd, Deigo Martin. - SUREASH CHOLAI

"People saying they going down dying with 'PNM, PNM.'"

A 43-year-old resident from Richplain said he did not want to hear about any of the candidates.

"All of them is failure."


Felicia Holder, Progressive Empowerment Party, 32, business woman/politician from Belmont

Felicia Holder -

Flooding and water distribution will be solved by building retention ponds along the Diego Martin River to catch, store and treat excess rainwater, to be redistributed across the constituency, providing water 24/7 for all.

The issue of infrastructure will be solved by decentralising public works to the constituency, to be managed by a supervisor of public works.

"I am a competent, capable, hard-working young woman. Being born with one arm I've faced some of life's toughest challenges and found innovative ways to overcome all. Everything I put my mind to, I get done and see through to completion. I plan to fight for the needs and rights of Diego Martin Central residents, just like I've had to fight all my life. The era of compassionate, capable and competent representation WILL start under me and the PEP."

Ashton Francis, New National Vision, 28, self-employed, from Diamond Vale

Ashton Francis - NNV

"To tackle massive underemployment and unemployment for young people we plan to have needs-based programmes that evaluate the talents of young people and facilitate new opportunities based on these talents. These opportunities will encompass green jobs, manufacture of niche products, new social media and entertainment, and modern advanced agriculture. We've already assessed that partnering with the Diamond Vale Cooperative we can generate 200 jobs using our green mall-market concept.

"For degrading infrastructure (roads, access to water, green spaces et cetera) I will start a network of citizen inspectors to shadow those public officers who sign off and evaluate our infrastructure projects. We will activate a system to move water access from centralised system to a community system where every household will access sufficient portable water 24/7. We will implement a system to collect waste and turn it into biogas which can produce electricity on small scale or be used in manufacturing processes.

"For poorly performing schools in the constituency I want to partner with local churches and NGO's to offer low cost after school education and sporting services in the communities.

"What Diego Martin Central needs is a candidate who is serious about representing the people. A candidate who will be a MP with passion, resilience and has enough energy to go the distance. There is only one candidate that fits that description. It is me, Ashton Francis. I am a young man who has people at heart. A natural people’s person and I do care about my fellow residents. I have done the work to know what our needs are and have listened to the people. My policies are built on the people and not top down. I lead by the people and with the people."

Garvin Nicholas, Movement for National Development, 53, attorney, from Diego Martin Central

Garvin Nicholas

"The number one issue is that of crime/insecurity. While some areas manage to control access to limit the crime infestation, areas like Diamond Vale, St Lucien Road, Petit Valley and Cocorite and are finding it extremely difficult to cope. I intend to work with communities to try to control access, increase community monitoring by the police and to tackle the root causes of crime by providing alternatives to the lifestyle.

"The second issue is that of general decay of infrastructure and lack of accessible community facilities. I will ensure that residents have access to community centres and recreational facilities that are now restricted by cost or other factors.

"Third is the issue of corruption and inequity, which have been identified as a core reason for the lack of opportunities available to ordinary people. I have identified the lack of transparency in government dealings as the core contributor to corruption and or the perception of corruption. I will ensure the passing of the most modern and effective transparency laws to give access to details of every contract entered into by the State to every citizen.

"I have the experience from local government through to international diplomat and senior cabinet minister. I understand the constituency and it’s needs. I have a clear vision for the development not only of the constituency but of the region. I know how to get things done and how every arm of government works. The decisions we take will be influenced by the people of Diego Martin."

Newsday tried to speak to the other three candidates but did not receive responses by press time.

Work continues to complete the new Diego Martin Health Centre on the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard in Central Diego Martin. - SUREASH CHOLAI


"Diego Central voters: We don’t know the candidates"

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