As constituents in the Moruga/Tableland constituency expressed their frustration with the area’s inconsistent water supply and bad roads, their elected officials engaged in a war of words with Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan and his ministry.
On Tuesday morning, Hindustan, New Grant residents burned tyres and other debris.
It was the second day of protest in the Moruga/Tableland constituency after residents in several parts of Barrackpore did the same on Monday.
Although Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin joined Tuesday’s protest as a show of support, Newsday was unable to get a comment from her.
But in a media release on Tuesday, she took aim at the Ministry of Works and Transport.
The ministry had lambasted Monday’s protest as being “counterproductive, irresponsible and unpatriotic.”
The ministry claimed the fire started during protest caused $375,000 in road damage and warned protestors that police investigations were underway.
In her release, Benjamin said, “I take note of yesterday’s (Monday’s) threat of legal action by the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) against residents of the Moruga/Tableland Constituency for exercising their right to civil protest.
“I await the MOWT’s similar action against the residents of Beetham Gardens for their numerous occasions of fiery and violent protest.”
Benjamin also questioned how the ministry was able to calculate the cost of damage caused by the protest as she claimed no ministry official visited the scene, and that it takes longer to make such assessments.
“I assert that while the MOWT propagates misdirection and attempts to downcry the citizens of Moruga/Tableland, hundreds of my constituents went to sleep last night with no water in their pipes, and thousands more will traverse dangerous, dilapidated roads today.
“Let us call the MOWT’s response what it really is – a direct attempt by the Government to suppress the collective will of the masses.”
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal chimed into the fray by calling the ministry’s release, and Sinanan “callous and malicious.”
In a release on Tuesday, Moonilal demanded that Sinanan apologise publicly to the protesters.
“Residents of Barrackpore, like those of most rural communities in Trinidad and Tobago, have seen their roads crumble under the failed PNM regime, and have been met with stony indifference and arrogance from the authorities.
“Roads and bridges are in a disastrous state and require urgent intervention, not the arrogance and conceit of the failed Minister of Works and Transport.”
Not to be left out, Naparima MP Rodney Charles also released a statement on Tuesday.
Charles said the ministry’s response was an example of the government being “out of touch with reality and disconnected from citizens’ hardships.”
Criticising Sinanan, Charles said, “What he failed to acknowledge is that if he did his job in the first place, constituents would not have felt hopeless enough to protest with such fervour.
“It is shameful that after hearing the cries of anger and frustration from constituents yesterday, Minister Sinanan had the audacity to call citizens unpatriotic and threaten legal action for their last-ditch effort to be heard after years of neglect.”
Contacted by Newsday for comment, Sinanan said he would not be making an apology as neither Moonilal nor Charles had the authority to call for one.
“I don’t think my appointment (as a minister) was made by either Mr Moonilal or Charles so I don’t think they can call for me to make an apology.”
Sinanan sent Newsday a video which allegedly showed a policeman attempting to stop Benjamin from adding a tyre to the fire in Tuesday’s protest.
Sinanan asked if Moonilal and Charles would be demanding an apology from Benjamin too.
“I want to ask Mr Moonilal and Mr Charles if Benjamin should apologise to the country for her behaviour. They don’t have the moral authority to ask me to apologise.”
He said if Moonilal and Charles endorsed Benjamin’s participation in Tuesday’s protest, then they should reflect on their judgment.