Debe Flood Victims Abandoned by Government
Are the people of Debe citizens of Trinidad and Tobago? If they are, then, how does one explain the non-response of the State to the plight of victims of flood caused by tropical storm Brent last Tuesday and Wednesday?
The Army, Fire Service, Red Cross did not come to the rescue of these citizens who were marooned in 2-4 feet of water in many cases. Officials of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and other State agencies arrived, surveyed and said “we would have to wait till the water subsides.”
Contrast the above with SEVA TT, the Sai Baba organizations and other service organizations that served thousands of prepared meals and bottled water to the affected people. Mattresses were sourced and made available to shelters and homes. Materials were sourced, manpower recruited and several roofs were repaired. A pregnant woman was lifted by young men in a make shift stretcher to a truck that transported her to safety. “Where is the ambulance from the Ministry of Health? Whey the Minister Health, Terrence Deyalsingh?” an irate resident questioned.
This non-response of the State confirms in my mind that the State is a liability, more so an albatross around the necks of citizens. It may care for some of its citizens but certainly care less for the people of Debe. One wonders how the State would have responded if the East West Corridor was affected by flood waters? “Even natural disasters in Grenada, Haiti and Katrina in the USA got better responses from the government of Trinidad and Tobago,” a radio talk show host reminded his listeners. “Don’t forget, Brian Lara was sent to Haiti as goodwill ambassador and Patrick Manning hit the ground in Grenada,” a caller reminded. I recalled that Corporate T&T were busily moving goods from their warehouses to a chartered ship to take to Grenada. Media houses were coordinating donation of tin foods, packed, bottled water toilet paper, napkins and other non-perishable items. T&TEC crew were sent to repair fallen electrical wires and restore electricity. However, when it comes to Debe those “Samaritans” were not to be seen or heard.
What is the role of the State? It certainly plays a major role in taxing the poor and working people to provide for the few rich. It certainly provides contracts to friends and party hacks. Also, some contractors are readily paid for their services while scores who have completed their work have not received payments and are now being witch hunt by a fraud squad. Incidentally, many of those contractors owed by the government are residents of Debe/Barrackpore area. It’s as though this Rowley administration hates the people of Debe!
We also witnessed that a particular business conglomerate was paid a sum off $255m of taxpayers’ money to purchase a failed telecommunication company that was in a coma and showing no hope of resuscitation. Massy was not under “flood waters” for such a bail out to be executed. But such is the bias of the State-it exploits one group and pampers the other.
Where were FEEL, Living Water Community and Missionaries of Charity? These organisations talk well about serving the poor? Has FEEL taken the time out to open its warehouses to distribute its products to flood victims? Maybe FEEL can tell the national public how to go about accessing its resources. More so, FEEL can begin by telling the people how much subventions they receive from the State and who have been their beneficiaries for the last two years.
Luckily the people of Debe have learned not to depend on the State when it is managed by the vindictive PNM. Their grandparents have learned the hard way. They have toiled and built schools to educate their sons and daughters. They have proudly retained their family values. They practice the values of hard work and thrift. Our grandmothers taught us how to “cut and fit” and save and we understand the culture of investment and entrepreneurship.
The tropical storm brought many together. It helped to remind us of the value of community and the extended family. It provided an opportunity to prepare, cook and serve meals to our brothers and sisters in need. Several men and women, young and old took the initiative to work together. This co-operative effort has helped citizens to awaken and strengthen our spirit of self-reliance.
Now that the water has subsided we would see the bread vans bringing their goods to the retail shops and supermarkets in Debe. Other fast food franchises have re-opened their doors for business. Where were these businesses when the flood waters were up? How many bread or bottles of water were donated to the distressed people? How many pizzas and chicken and chips were served to families that were marooned?
It is time for the flood victims to understand their power. We have purchasing power and must exercise it to our advantage and not to our detriment. We need to expand production of local goods and services and increase trade among us. We need to patronize the neighbourhood bakery; we can prepare our beverages including coffee and chai tea at home. W can prepare the tastiest pizza in our oven and the most delicious bar-b-que in our backyards!
We need to develop greater self-employment. We need to explore the establishment of consumer co-operative societies where the community can be the owners of businesses. Credit cooperatives are necessary to finance business enterprises. Family and neighbourhoods need to pool capital to make investments. We need to implement the concept of no interest loans to encourage entrepreneurship.
Mahatma Gandhi boycott British goods in his struggle for India’s independence. He argued that Indians were not obligated to support their oppressors and enemies who don’t have your welfare at heart.
What contributions have the banks made to the people of Debe? They make millions of dollars in profits. Were they seen in your neighbourhood distributing meals and mattresses in your hour of need?
This flood is a reality check-up. It would now help us to accept the fact that many of the people who you assume are your friends are not there in your hour of need. Certainly, Rowley and the PNM are not your friends. So also are Corporate T&T.
It is your family members and your neighbours that came to your rescue in your hour of need. It is they that have your welfare at heart. The Jehovah Witnesses that walked through your neighbourhoods were not with you during the flood. This flood was a reality check!