Monday, March 27, 2006

Hundreds march to stop smelter construction

More than 1,000 people journeyed in the blistering heat through the Chatham region in Cedros yesterday, as they protested a decision to build a smelter in the south-western peninsula.
Social groups from across the country, led by the Chatham/Cap-de-ville Environmental Protection Group and Cedros Peninsula United, as well as some journalists and police officers, gathered from 9 am at Chatham Junction.
Many of the groups, including the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, Hindu Credit Union, Disabled People’s International, the Keith Noel 136 Committee and the Rights Action Group came from outside of the peninsula, to show solidarity with the southern residents.
The demonstrators warned that they would not allow construction of a smelter plant, stating that they were ready to defend their country with their lives.
Waving placards which read: “No to Pollution,” “No to Toxic Waste” and “Let us Live,” the demonstrators trekked down Chatham Main Road to the Bob Marley tune One Love.
One demonstrator—Anna Cadiz—who came from Maraval, said:
“We are not going to allow our country to be destroyed. We have a right to say we don’t want this pollution, and we are 100 per cent united against the construction of this smelter plant.”
Troy Hadeed, of Carenage, said: “What they are trying to do to our beloved country is utter nonsense. This is going to affect our water systems, our agriculture and forestry. We cannot allow this.”
Some of the demonstrators wore white T-shirts with the words “Save T&T” emblazoned on them.
Young children carrying placards about the effects of pollution also took centre stage as they danced to the rhythms of the Fullerton Tassa Group.
UNC Senator Sadiq Baksh and PNM Councillor Dhansam Dhansook also participated in the one-mile march, along with TV 6 Morning Edition host Andy Johnson and Guardian columnist Attillah Springer.
Baksh said he shared the residents’ concerns.
“I am here in solidarity with them and I believe that they have a right to voice their opinions.
“The Government should have consulted with the people, because their concerns about death, pollution and health risks are valid,” Baksh said.
President of Cedros Peninsula United Dr Raphael Sebastien said the march was the biggest success since the campaign against the smelter plans began 18 months ago.
After the march, the residents gathered at Food Crop Junction, Chatham, where they participated in a religious service. Representatives from the Cedros Anglican, Presbyterian, Open Bible and Pentecostal Churches gave praise, along with various leaders of the Muslim and Christian faiths.
Demonstrators were given samples of agricultural produce and delicacies produced by Cedros residents, who said the aluminium smelter plants would destroy their livelihood.


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