Sixty years of independence from British rule is upon us and it is a good time for reflection. Perhaps one of the most significant changes in our governance structure is local government. Trinidad & Tobago moved from a structure of counties and wards to regional corporations. That more than most would have led to the poor roads and bridges in our communities.
It may be instructive to revisit what we inherited and what have we done since independence.
In infrastructure, we inherited well maintained parks, bridges, buildings, and roads. One can remember the clean well maintained Memorial Park, Woodford Square with its functioning fountain, the immaculate Mahaica Oval, the hanging bridges in Moruga and Blanchisseuse, Whitehall and the President’s house. There are too many others to mention here. But each of these major units were either left to decay or were totally destroyed at some point since independence. While some have been repaired the last two hanging bridges are left to eventually fall into the river.
At independence we inherited community policing where the over eighty police stations were distributed through every village and there were round the clock police patrols in every community. People that were alive during that period can to this day still recall the name of their village Seargent or Corporal who oversaw their police station. There were community courts and conflicts were resolved at the village courts weekly. The villages through their village councils and county councils maintained the secondary roads, their playgrounds, and streets signs, including mileage markers. This allowed for community competitions in athletics, cricket, football, and many other sporting activities.
In the villages one was able to visit the Warden Office to pay taxes or visit the local area officer to register births and deaths. A visit to the community forest ranger ensured that there was no illegal hunting, quarrying, or harvesting of lumber. The public transportation ran on time and there was a rail service independent of the roadways, thus making traffic congestion a non-issue.
As one examines Trinidad & Tobago at the age of sixty years past independence, one sees a situation where justice is delayed by decades, where community secondary roads are in such a state of disrepair that some communities no longer exist in rural areas. One sees murders daily, and the murders continue to be emboldened due to the inefficiency of the courts and policing.
Money is not the problem, skilled personnel is not the problem, intelligent managers is not the problem. The problem is an inefficient structure of governance that has replaced what was in place at independence. That structure was deliberately or experimentally put in place to perhaps give one the sense that it is “our thing”, our demonstration of independence.
It is a colossal failure. Until Trinidad & Tobago returns to a structure of governance that empowers the communities and put people ahead of political ambitions, the future would be bleak.
God Bless Our Nation.