Love for Kamla in Laventille

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, second right, greets citizens at the United National Congress (UNC) fifth national anti-crime consultation at Misir Community Centre, Morvant, on May 13. – Photo courtesy United National Congress

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was shown love and appreciation, and dubbed “mother” by the people of Morvant and Laventille, which is known as a die-hard PNM area, on May 13.

Residents who attended the United National Congress (UNC) fifth national anti-crime consultation at Misir Community Centre publicly aired their hurt and pain caused by crime and spoke out on the victimisation and hardship endured because of their alignment with the opposition.

Crime was destroying families, they said, saying people were being forced to toe the line or face death if they did not join in the drug and gang trade, and talking of the inability to find jobs,  the invisible borderline which caused them to become targets of bordering communities, and young men and women who wanted to rise above all of that, but were not being given the opportunity.

Claiming that it was “Kamla who put food on her table,” and assisted in her obtaining a law degree, the message was loud and clear from a woman named Lita Thompson.

“It is time we stand together and stop this divide from each other and get things right. Time we stop playing politics and start playing country.”

The mother of nine, Thompson said four of her children were at university and one recently graduated in chemical engineering, to demonstrate that there were talented and academically qualified people in the community, which got a bad rap from the few criminal elements tarnishing the area.

“We can make a difference for ourselves and we have the support of the honourable lady (Persad-Bissessar) who has come to listen to what we have to say, who love us.”

She urged residents “not to play the race card,” but appreciate and thank her for helping to bring change and development.

A woman named Joy whose son, known as “Bussup,” was shot and killed on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, said because of her public alignment with the UNC, her family were politically victimised. She said her sons, who she said were bright children, could not get jobs, like so many other young men and women in the community.

“Government telling them they not giving them no work because they would take their money and buy guns. People don’t have money and they have guns, people who can’t even spell ‘gun’ have guns, so what they talking about, they not giving them work so they could buy guns?”

Another woman, Ayana, said the turf war was real, pointing out this is what got her brother killed outside the Brix Hotel, Cascade, in January. She said her brother did not smoke, was not involved in drugs or gang warfare, but was simply killed because of where he lived.

Former local government candidate Catherine “Precious” Perry also alluded to people being unable to attend Monday night’s meeting because of the turf war.

“I myself can’t go into certain places and I am female.”

While she lost the East Dry River seat she contested in the last local government elections, Precious said she continues to get requests from residents who want jobs and basic amenities.

“When they come and tell me they have no water, I tell them I don’t work WASA and remind them this is what they choose.”

She said people from the Morvant, Laventille, Sea Lots, Beetham and other areas were selling drugs because they needed to eat. She questioned Persad-Bissessar as to her crime plan for dealing with high-risk areas, to which the Opposition Leader held a closed fist in the area and responded, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Community and social activist Lennox Smith applauded the Prime Minister for allocating funds from a golf tournament to Vision on Mission, which deals with rehabilitating ex-prisoners. Smith said he would be happy if half of that sum could be shared with organisations trying to prevent people from going to prison.

He presented Persad-Bissessar with a flash drive which he said contained a document of over 1,000 pages of a survey and projected development for Laventille.

Persad-Bissessar promised to listen to every recommendation and suggestion made at the five consultations so far.

She said she was inspired to hold the crime talk in Morvant/Laventille because of a Newsday March 13 article headlined: Morvant/Laventille students say no to crime. The story spoke of young people involved in a run/walk to stop the violence, as they have not been untouched by crime.

Reading excerpts from the article she described as “one of the most inspiring stories I have read in years,” she said it provided hope and promise for the community touched by crime, as it demonstrated the abounding talent and good people who also lived there.

She told the audience, “You are equal citizens under the law, and are constitutionally entitled to an equal share of the national resources. The time has come for the government you voted in office to serve you people on the Hill.

“Never let anyone destroy your sense of dignity and worth. Never let the bad around you cause you to turn to a life of crime and hate. You have the opportunity and the responsibility to seek to make the country a better nation in which you all can live.”