THE United National Congress (UNC) said it was displaying “typical UNC behaviour” in clamping down on the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) attempt to disconnect customers.
In a media release issued by its public relations officer Kirk Meighoo on Saturday, it said WASA’s disconnection drive was “cruel” during a lockdown and pandemic.
It said pressure from its MPs and the public forced the authority to discontinue its drive, which would have left customers without water in a weekend curfew.
“If the UNC did not raise its voice, the PNM would have continued its programme of locking families in their homes from 7 pm on Friday, for virtually the entire weekend, without a supply of water.
“These actions by WASA constitute the most inhumane tyranny, and cruelty beyond belief.”
It further claimed that the disconnections were carried out in Chaguanas, San Juan and Barataria, targeted areas represented by the UNC, and the PNM continued to ignore its concerns when questioned on several occasions in different spaces about the disconnection drive.
“Minister Marvin Gonzales and WASA’s executive chairman Lennox Sealy saw nothing wrong when objections were made by UNC MPs. They disparaged the MPs’ interventions as 'typical UNC behaviour.' and doubled down on WASA’s actions in media interviews.
“There was no indication that they saw any problem, and they continued with their heartless programme. When asked in the Senate, the PNM leader of government business Clarence Rambharat coldheartedly and flagrantly refused to answer senator Wade Mark’s question on the effect of the WASA disconnections on sanitisation during the pandemic.”
On Thursday, WASA issued a release saying its debt recovery actions began on Wednesday with the disconnection of several customers in Barataria, San Juan and Chaguanas after attempts to encourage errant customers to pay proved futile.
The UNC called the disconnection drive sickening and disgusting and chalked it up as “typical PNM behaviour.”
“Disconnecting families from their water supply, threatening to seize their homes, locking them down for approximately 48 hours from Friday at 7pm to Monday at 5am, not allowing so-called 'non-essential' household heads from earning an income to pay water bills (in fact, arresting and imprisoning them if they attempt to do so), all during a pandemic when washing hands and maintaining a clean environment is crucial to saving lives in this country, is typical PNM behaviour. Absolutely sickening and disgusting.”
When contacted for comment about the disconnection drive, which started on Wednesday, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales said WASA was back at the drawing board to find new solutions.
He told Newsday in a WhatsApp message that the disconnection drive had been stopped and “I instructed the executive director to put all his focus on completing the transformation strategy and new structure for WASA for the government.
“In the meantime, customers can visit any WASA service centre or online to settle their financial commitments with the authority.”
Gonzales said the transformation strategy and new structure were still a work in progress and were scheduled to be presented to government in a month.
When asked about the UNC’s claim that the disconnection drive targeted UNC constituencies, Gonzales said, “Well, I don't know anything about that. The management of WASA will have to explain the basis upon which customers were targeted. I won't be pulled nor allow my office to be dragged into these ad-hominem accusations.”
On Friday, WASA service centres across the country were flooded by people seeking to clear their outstanding water bills in fear of being disconnected.
The massive gathering was criticised by many people on and off social media as a potential superspreader of the covid19 virus as well as a blow to people experiencing income challenges in light of the health regulations.
Attempts to contact other WASA officials about the way forward on its debt collection were unsuccessful.