THE streets of Chaguanas were transformed into a sea of black on Saturday morning, as the Women’s Arm of the United National Congress (UNC) staged a protest against the rising cost of living in TT.
Creating a rhythm section from empty pots and pans, the women, dressed in all black – symbolic of the dark days the country is facing – maintained a steady chant as they marched to the beat, calling for the Prime Minister "to go".
“Food prices too high, gas prices too high, Rowley must go, Rowley must go,” was the vociferous chant as the march – dubbed Dark days under PNM – began from the Chaguanas Borough Corporation compound.
It was led through the main road by the organisation’s assistant secretary Raquel Ghany carrying a national flag, and accompanied by a demonstrator dressed as a midnight robber wearing a string of “cancelled food cards” like a sash. On his hat, were symbols of the closed state enterprises, Caroni (1975) Ltd and Petrotrin, indicating high unemployment, as a result of the closures.
PRO Marisa Vidya Ramlogan explained the symbolism of the flag in the protest.
“We are all citizens of TT. This march is not about politics. This is not about red or yellow (the identifying colours of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and UNC).
“We invited everyone to come out to this venue because this is our country and whatever happens affects us all. We have to stand up against the high cost of living, we have to stand up against the rising cost of food.”
The march began around 8.20 am and saw the large placard-carrying contingent, walking along the main road, passing the police station, left onto Ramsaran Street, Busy Corner and concluding at the market.
Along the way, workers and business owners stepped outside of their enterprises to demonstrate support by joining the chant or grabbing and waving placards carried by the demonstrators.
“Shamfa Cudjoe is a failure”, “I have made sacrifices what have you done Shamfa?”, “Cost of living is too high”, “To raise gas again is evil”, were among the messages on the placards depicting the social ills.
A protester also carried an empty, portable gas canister, to highlight the increase in fuel prices.
For months the Women’s Arm have been carrying the fight for a reversal in the high cost of living. Ramlogan said in the budget for fiscal 2023, the opposite was done.
After listening to the budget, she said, they intend to intensify this form of protest.
She said they will be taking it to all constituencies across TT.
“We will not be leaving out any constituency. As I said, it is not a UNC thing. We are sending a message loud and clear that citizens have to stand up and speak out on issues affecting them.
“We are doing this in a peaceful manner. It is not about violence.” She commended the police who kept watch on the march.