UNC MP Haynes: 'We live in a pothole paradise'

United National Congress (UNC) MP for Tabaquite Anita Haynes. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle
United National Congress (UNC) MP for Tabaquite Anita Haynes. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE OPPOSITION says it has exhausted almost all efforts to press the government to take the country's "collapsing infrastructure" seriously, and may seek relief and answers for citizens through the courts.

Tabaquite, Mayaro, and other areas are "completely losing access" to the rest of the country, United National Congress (UNC) MP for Tabaquite Anita Haynes said during the opposition's midweek briefing on Wednesday.

Haynes and Mayaro MP Rushton Paray lambasted the government, saying they had to address mounting infrastructural issues at the briefing, instead of matters they would normally focus on as shadow ministers.

Paray said they would "consider legal recourse unless the government provides a plausible account to the people" for substantial loans it had obtained for infrastructural development.

He said Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert had not told the nation that over the past seven years their government had signed several agreements, amounting to over $9 billion,with CAF (Development Bank of Latin America) for infrastructural development.Paray wants evidence from Imbert that the funds were used for that purpose, something he said the opposition has called for in and out of Parliament for several months, including during the budget debate.

He also called on CAF to take an interest in this "sensitive financial matter" and insist on "detailed and public accountability."

Haynes rebuked the government for the state of disrepair of communities in her constituency.

Its main goal, she said, was "to provide basic goods and services like roadworks. It's a public good. It belongs in the hands of the executive."

She referred to a newspaper article published in July in which Sinanan responded to private citizens who offered to fix potholes in their areas. Sinanan said the public may buy materials and fill potholes, but must apply for permission to do so, and his ministry would provide technical guidance, once approved.

Haynes said this reflected the government's evasion of basic responsibilities, "telling you as citizens, as taxpayers, who would have already paid your money into the system, (to pay) again and do the work that they are supposed to do.

She said in the past seven years, the administration had "successfully lowered the bar to below the ground." People no longer expect the Works Ministry to work, she said.

"Citizens no longer expect that anything will be done for things like a pothole or major roadworks. Instead, you have to wait until the entire area is collapsing, falling apart, before you get some attention. Note I said 'attention' and not 'work.'"

Haynes said she started a campaign – #FixOurRoadsTabaquite – in 2020, during the pandemic, to get information by virtual means so she could" adequately use my parliamentary platform" to represent her constituents' problems. It highlighted poor road conditions, land movement, dilapidated and collapsed bridges, poor drainage, lack of access to pipeborne water and other infrastructural problems, she said.

"This is 2022 and these are issues we've been facing for the past two years, and since I've been the representative, that I've seen with my two eyes."

She said she had lobbied the relevant authorities, sending over 100 letters to the ministries of Works and Transport, Rural Development, Local Government, Public Utilities, WASA and other state agencies.

"We have had legislative debates, motions, matters on the adjournment, Standing Finance Committee, urgent questions, using the parliamentary platform, all in an effort to say to this PNM administration, 'Do the job you asked for when you stood on the political platform and said to the people of TT that you are prepared to govern.'"

Haynes described the condition of the Guaracara-Tabaquite Road as a "significant public hazard" over the past four months.

"Despite the constant liaising with (Sinanan), who also visited the mudslide, we have been back and forth with government agencies."

She said she had been told the Works Ministry and WASA could not decide which was responsible for dealing with the issue, "while Rome burns."

Haynes said at Corosal, in her constituency, vehicles other than four-by-fours cannot pass, but "In Parliament, the Minister of Works told me, remarkably, that no community in TT is in danger of being completely cut off."

Corosal, Haynes added, is also without pipeborne water.

She also highlighted Tortuga, Caratal, Forres Park, Claxton Bay and other communities, where roads have "deteriorated rapidly" in the past few weeks.

Paray spoke of the "calamity" of a collapsing, flooded road on the Manzanilla stretch, and the collapsing Naparima-Mayaro Road.

On Sunday, at a PNM Women's League meeting, the Prime Minister promised mass roadworks and infrastructural upgrades after the rainy season, saying the government is borrowing a "significant amount" for them.

He admitted road maintenance had not been a government priority in recent times.

"When we gave priority to our life and limb and our economy, we neglected – because we didn’t have the resources – the road maintenance programme," Rowley said.

Haynes contested, however, that work was recently done in the only area of her constituency which shares a boundary with a PNM constituency, suggesting partisan governance.

"I hope you understand what this PNM has done with the consistent lowering of the bar," Haynes said, "with the consistent reduction of expectations, telling citizens to expect less because you deserve less. And the fact that we live in a pothole paradise (is part) of a national joke, because if you don't laugh, you'll cry."


"UNC MP Haynes: ‘We live in a pothole paradise’"

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