Black Rock Village head: THA secretary politicising council

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Learie Paul –

PRESIDENT of the Black Rock Village Council Learie Paul has accused THA Secretary of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport Terance Baynes of politicising the operations of the council.

“We in the village council feel that pastor Baynes is trying to destabilise and trying to create chaos in what we know is a closely-knit community.

“Our village council, from inception, has never been involved in politics and will never be. I do not want the secretary to get the village council in politics. We are about building a community, which we are supposed to do,” an upset Paul told Newsday on Friday.

He said the village council has had excellent relationships with every THA secretary who had served Black Rock over the past 60 years.

On April 18, Baynes and Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis clashed over jurisdiction over the Black Rock Multipurpose Regional Complex. The building was to be used for the ministry’s vocational skills training programme. The division also holds vocational classes at the complex.

Cudjoe-Lewis, in a post on her Facebook page, said last week, before the start of the ministry’s skills training programme, Baynes threatened to take back the keys from the village council. As a result, she said the ministry had to find another venue for training.

But in a video on his Facebook page, Baynes said the complex falls under the purview of his division.

Baynes was in New York at the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) 2024 Youth Forum.

He claimed a subsidiary of Cudjoe’s ministry had applied and been granted permission to use the facility by an entity that is not authorised so to do.

Saying this permission contradicted what the division was trying to do with its vocational classes, Baynes accused the village council of “displacing community development (division) in the execution of the classes.”

But Paul, who is also the PNM Tobago Council chairman, denied this was the case.

“That is incorrect. I want to state categorically that it is a multipurpose facility and that the village council would have partnered with several institutions over the years, including YTEPP and others.”

He said the complex was constructed by a Patrick Manning-led PNM government through an Inter-American Development Bank loan.

“This was done through consultation with the village council and then THA chairman under the DAC (Democratic Action Congress) administration. It was PNM in Trinidad, DAC in Tobago.”

Paul said after it was built, the complex had a board of management, whose chair was the village council representative.

“So from the inception of the complex, the village council has always played a management role, and never in the history of the 60-year-plus village council have we ever had a reason to request from Community Development permission to use the centre.”

He added jurisdiction of the complex in relation to keys “remains as it has been since the inception, under the purview of the Black Rock Village Council.

“So when we were asked by the ministry to get access for classes in the centre, it was nothing new. We would have checked, as we were accustomed doing, to see if days were available, because Community Development (division) also does classes in the complex.”

Paul said whenever there are classes happening simultaneously, “The Division of Community Development will always take precedence, so that they will use the main hall and whatever other classes we are having will use the auxiliary offices, as the centre was so designed.”

Paul said on one particular day, the ministry’s vocational classes ran from 3-6 pm and the division’s started at 5 pm and ended at 8 pm.

He said Baynes’s claim that the village council was “displacing classes” is inaccurate.

Paul also took issue with Baynes’ statement in the video that the village council is illegal and not properly constituted.

“That is incorrect. So someone is misinforming the secretary, because the Black Rock Village Council held its AGM last year and we are due to have an election this year.”