Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland, centre, with Public Utilites Minister Marvin Gonzales, second from right, back row, and Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga, second from left, back row, with residents at the commissioning of the Morris Marshall Storage Reservoir, Picton Street, Laventille on Monday. – ROGER JACOB
Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said the new refurbished and renamed Morris Marshall Reservoir represents the service and hardwork of the former MP.
Morris Eustace Marshall was a MP for Laventille and one of three members of the People’s National Movement to win their seats after the 1986 general elections that were won by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). Marshall represented Port of Spain East, then Laventille West in Parliament from 1987 til his death on March 13, 1994.
Speaking at the ceremonial opening of the reservoir on Monday at Picton Road, Laventille, Gonzales said it is part of the government’s broader plan to improve water supply in northwest Trinidad, calling it the north-west programme.
“This reservoir, when conceptualised in terms of refurbishment, had a number of challenges, and there was a point at which I felt as though there was no need to try to surmount those challenges, because I honestly felt that there are other communities that require that kind of support.
“And, therefore, my energies might have been better spent dealing with other areas where challenges were being experienced. I must commend MP Scotland, who would meet me in the parliament chamber and harass me. I could not drink my coffee or do anything in peace.”
Gonzales spoke about the new name of the reservoir, formerly known as “Picton Tanks” saying, “When residents of East Port of Spain drive past their newly refurbished water tanks, they must not remember a racist governor. Instead, we should remember one of their sons who gave his life, his blood, sweat and tears for the people in the area.”
The street and tanks were formerly named for Thomas Picton, a former governor or Trinidad from 1797 to 1803 under British rule. Picton is known for brutality, torture – including that of a 14-year-old girl – and his role in the colonial slave trade.
On Monday, Gonzales said when the refurbishment proposal first reached the board of commissioners of WASA, they believed there were more pressing priorities.
“As the line minister, I conveyed to the board that it might not be their priority, but it is the government’s priority and it must be done. Our battle is our battle, and we tackle many issues without speaking up. This was a stance I took because I believe that the people of East Port of Spain (PoS), Laventille and surrounding areas are important.”
Gonzales thanked everyone involved and highlighted the crucial role played by residents.
“Many people will have all kinds of views about the people of East PoS, but the community supported this, and this could not have happened without the support of the community. So I think the people of Picton and surrounding areas worked hard to make this a reality as part of a community-oriented project. I want to thank the residents for making this happen.”
Gonzales shared his experience of visiting the project on two Sundays prior, at 10 am, in an unmarked vehicle to observe the progress.
“When people say people in Laventille do not want to work, I want to publicly reject that. Because once they are given the opportunity and we show that we want to work with them, they will come forward and work. So they must be commended for demonstrating they have passions and can work like everyone else.”
He said the craftsmanship and dedication of residents inspired his ministry to ensure every booster station and WASA installation in East PoS would be refurbished by the people of those areas.
“You have demonstrated that you want to make this happen once the government reaches out to you to make it a reality.”
About the name change from the Picton reservoir to the Morris Marshall reservoir, Gonzales said it was due to former governor Thomas Picton’s racist actions.
“Picton was racist and pursued racist policies. We have a lot of streets and public infrastructure named after racist people.
“We have decided to remove his name and replace it with a servant of the people who worked tirelessly for years. Someone who came from East PoS and who gave up his life, his blood, his sweat and tears for the people in this very area. And from today on, it must always be known as the Morris Marshall Reservoir.”
Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland, speaking at the opening, called the project significant.
“This has been a very long war. MP Gonzales could not have his seat in peace because, as he sat down, I would approach him and say, what about my project?
“This is 100 per cent local Picton content. This was done by the community, with a contractor from the community, with persons who live in the community doing this project.”
Scotland said the water in the tanks came from Caroni, was then pumped to El Socorro and then to the Morris Marshall tank.
“This is the life and blood of East PoS and Belmont. If this is not working, then you will not get water. And this is just not a cosmetic programme. This is a very significant programme in the government’s pursuit of water for all by 2025.”
Scotland said East PoS was one of the safest places in the country.
“We want to make this a site where people can come with their families, have a picnic, have something to eat and enjoy the view. If you look at the views here, they are spectacular. The breeze blows in the middle of the day, very calm and cooling and it soothes the spirit.”
He ended by calling the ceremony a soft opening, saying a formal ceremony would be held in early January, and would include the Morris Marshall Development Foundation.