PEOPLE’S National Movement (PNM) candidate for La Horquetta/Talparo Foster Cummings flatly denied any notion the constituency was a marginal but rather deemed it a PNM safe seat, speaking to Newsday on Friday.
“The seat is not marginal. It was won by 3,000 votes in 2015. It is a solid PNM seat, not a marginal seat.” He reckoned only a margin of 1,000 or less would be considered a marginal seat.
Told his UNC rival Jearlean John was shown on social media as pounding the ground as if expecting to win, Cummings replied, “Not as much as I’m pounding the ground. I’m on the ground 16 hours a day and making sure this seat stays with the PNM.” Newsday asked if John had an advantage in having been selected 7-8 weeks before him.
“They are not ready for me as yet,” Cummings said of his rivals.
“I am just a politician who knows the ground, who knows how to interact with the people and has the people’s best interest at heart. They see it in me. I’m out here to serve the people.” Cummings said constituents are aware who he is and what he will bring to the table.
Newsday asked how he’d characterise TT’s political landscape now.
“Nationally, I think people recognise the PNM has been able to stabilise the country, that the PNM has managed an economy to ensure we stay afloat and we do not have to go to the IMF (International Monetary Fund). We’ve been able to do much with little, and that especially at this time of the pandemic the Government has been able to manage in a way that has the country at the forefront and citizens feel safer than many persons across the international spectrum.” He hailed the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health.
“The country would want to maintain that stability and that leadership and I don’t think people are going to vote to change leadership at this point in time.”
Has the PNM focused solely on running the ship of State (such as the economy) while the UNC focuses on the well-being of individuals, or do voters feel the PNM has taken care of them in their individual lives?
“That is the response I’ve been getting as I walk in the constituency. By and large, people are very comfortable with the way the Government has run the country.
“The discussion about ‘What has the Government done for you?’ that has been put out there as part of the UNC campaign, you can ask what did the UNC do for you when they were in office.
“Much more than that, it is about how does the Government manage the country in the interest of all the voters.”
Newsday asked what were the doorstep issues constituents were telling him about.
“People really are looking forward to leadership at the constituency level. What I’ve been doing already is that I have been pushing the question of entrepreneurship and how do we direct people with certain skills to give them the guidance they need to venture into business.”
He said many young people are very skilled but need support to let their dreams come true. “Entrepreneurship will be one of the main platforms of my campaign and has been, the creation of youth farming co-operatives.” He supported the rehabilitation of farms in the partly rural constituency, including brush cutting and giving planting materials.
Cummings also supported various types of skills training and the use of ICT in the community especially to help youngsters.
Newsday asked if the Government, in this regard, has done enough for youngsters in the past five years. Cummings replied yes. “The policy comes from the Government’s action over the past five years. Agriculture has taken a leap under the leadership of the current minister and this Government.”
He said under the Ministry of Communications, several centres were set up across TT to bring connectivity and accessibility. “Persons in rural areas will be able to utilise and have access to the internet. It helps a lot with education. In my own constituency, we’ll push for the establishment of a library as the Government has been using some of the community centres to promote the use of ICT. We are also putting ourselves in place to benefit from programmes like that.”
Newsday asked of any other concerns by constituents such as crime or cost of living. He replied that on his walkabouts he takes note of people’s concerns so as to try to direct them to getting assistance.
“A lot of persons are not aware of the assistance available to them. Some need assistance to fill out application forms, such as to access social services.
“Many people who raise concerns you might be alluding to , they don’t make the applications. You ask them, ‘Have you applied?’ and the answer is no.
“So we have been saying we will assist you make applications because the range of social services available is wide. We’ve been doing an extension work to bring these services to the community.”
Asked about many people complaining only about not getting covid grants, he said he had met many who had received these for at least two months.
“I know there are a large number of applicants and from my interaction with the ministry, they are still processing. Some of the applications have errors on them, so they pull that out and communicate with the applicant
“The thing is going through a process and you have to make sure that those who apply are eligible. I’m confident it will all be sorted out very shortly.”
So, why should voters support his candidacy?
“I’m going to be the best MP. I’m confident of victory. I have out forward a lot of plans for the further development of this constituency. Some plans involve local tourism, food security, poverty eradication, skills training and getting people into jobs and opportunities.” He is also aiming to boost housing, public transport and facilities like community centres and a library.
“In me La Horquetta/Talparo will get a representative who is committed and dedicated, with a track record of performance.” Cummings said before becoming parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, he had involved in a family business engaged in real estate and construction.
Asked to predict the election result nationwide, Cummings said, “The PNM will win handsomely. We’ll retain the seats we hold and are looking for two to three seats to go from the UNC to the PNM.”
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