Winston Modeste carries a bucket of water he filled from a WASA tank in Lopinot on Saturday. – JEFF K MAYERS
WHILE some Lopinot villagers were enjoying a sports and family day organised by its village council on Saturday, other residents, including several of the council’s former members, used the opportunity to protest a poor water supply, dangerous roads and representation of their MP.
Lopinot/Bon Air West MP Marvin Gonzales came in for sharp criticism from many of the residents, particularly as he is also the Minister of Public Utilities.
Gonzales launched a water treatment facility in Lopinot in June, with a ceremony, residents hoped, meant a reliable water supply would follow.
Instead, they said the situation got worse since the treatment plant opened, from a five-day supply per week, to a sporadic supply, with varying pressure levels. They have also complained about the quality of water, saying it is not fit to drink.
Donna Mora, CEO of the Lopinot Tourism Association, and a resident of the village, said the Lopinot Historical Complex has had no water for about a month.
“Because of that, the tourists and visitors have had no water to flush toilets and wash their hands,” she said.
“We had to buy bottles and bottles of water for that. We have to do better than that. We are one of the top tourism sites in TT.
“We get thousands of visitors here and I just feel like the MP is not listening to the people.
“He has lost touch with the people. He’s not a people’s MP.”
She says the roads, meanwhile, are similarly off-putting for visitors to the historical complex.
“When the tourists come, usually (they say) ‘oh, the road is really bad.’
“Couldn’t there at least fix the potholes for us? Years ago, at least they used to fix potholes (but) they not even fixing potholes (any more). Election come and go but it’s still (not fixed). So what it is really going on in this nation?”
This is not about any political party; this is about representation.”
Incidentally, Mora is a first-cousin of village councillor Dwayne Mora, who she said doesn’t seem to show much concern either.
“We have been keeping in touch with (the councillor) but yet again we feel like he’s not reaching out (to us). (He hasn’t) put out a statement… It shouldn’t have reached to this point that the villagers have to protest.
“This says a lot because Lopinot is not known for protesting.”
Gonzales issued a statement later on Saturday, saying the demonstration was organised by “a small group of residents,” and branded them as, “known political activists and former members of a now defunct and notorious village council whose aim is to continue to sow seeds of discord within the community.”
A building at the Lopinot Historical Complex that is in a state of disrepair. – JEFF K MAYERS
The so-called discord, he said, “is premised on a platform of lies and disruptive distractions and influenced by selfish agendas with the hope that the national community will not know of the many positive things happening in the community of Lopinot.
Gonzales referred to the water treatment in question, as well as new LED lights installed on the main road and planned upgrades to the Lopinot Historical Complex, as the “positive things.”
The MP, however, did not address any of the concerns raised by the protesters.
He wrote, “I wish to commend the vast majority of the community who rejected the calls by this disgruntled and misguided group.
“I also urge the said group to discontinue their campaign of mischief, hate and selfish agendas because it is destined to fail.
“As Member of Parliament for the Constituency, it is my solemn duty to ensure that the good work being done in the community, continues without let or hindrance.”
At the ceremony to open the treatment plant in June, Gonzales told a gathering that “(Like Lopinot), so many communities, under the (Community Water Improvement Programme), now have access to 24/7 water supply.”
The protest took place near to the recreation where the small village council family day was being held.
At one point, a voice was heard over a speaker announcing the start of a beer drinking competition.
Newsday spoke with other residents, who, despite Gonzales’ assertions about their political motives, explicitly said they did not want to have their comments misinterpreted as being political in nature.
Others, however, openly criticised the MP and minister, claiming that he has brazenly ignored their complaints about the water and roads.
Cindy Salina, who has lived in and out of Lopinot for 46 years, said, “Our water supply lately has been the worst in that we have pumps malfunctioning and washing machines malfunctioning because one minute we have water, next minute it’s a heavy flow which bursts the pipeline, then boom, no water again.”
He also said attempts to have the MP address the water and unsafe roads have been ignored.
Meanwhile, some residents of Lopinot do not have a problem with the treatment plant, so far, because their houses aren’t even connected to a main line, even after decades of promises from the government and WASA’s management.
Winston Modeste, who lives a short driving distance before the historical complex, was seen filling a bucket of water from a tank marked “WASA” on the side of the road opposite to his house.
The 1,000-gallon tank, among a few others in the area, was placed there about a year ago and is intended to be shared among residents in the vicinity who either do not have a connection to the main or are otherwise experiencing water issues.
Modeste said he has been promised a connection line to the main for as long as he’s lived in Lopinot for over 50 years.
The promises, he said, tend to come from political candidates every election season.
“They always keep reminding me, when the project is complete, we will get the line.”
He said WASA has contacted him asking how far along the water treatment project had reached, even after it was completed.
“I said ‘yes the work complete; there was a big celebration there, so, yes the work’s complete.’ So I there expecting a connection to come by same thing, nothing.”
“As a matter of fact, I never vote yet for this same reason. Any group comes around me, I always tell them unless you all give me water, I not voting for anybody.”