Thursday, September 21, 2006

Into the Fray

The changing positions of senior national politicians on the aluminium smelter plant to be built in Chatham on the Cedros peninsula have left many members of the public confused and unable to form personal opinions about the value of the construction of this facility in our midst.

Many who saw Basdeo Panday walking recently with the anti-smelter protesters forget that it was Panday as Prime Minister in 1998 who invited such an establishment.

Keith Rowley, Minister of Housing, speaking in Parliament, reminded MPs and the viewing public of a speech made by then Prime Minister Panday at the Hilton Trinidad on November 12, 1998. Occasion was the signing of an agreement with Norsk Hydro to construct an aluminium smelter in Trini-dad.

And it was Panday who described the establishment of an aluminium industry “as a new dawn” for T&T because it would bring a host of socio-economic gains for the nation.

Politicians are indeed strange animals. Basdeo Panday, Prime Minister and leader of the UNC inviting and supporting, while the PNM expressed opposition to certain aspects of the smelter. Today the PNM is supporting the aluminium smelter while Panday is marching against it.

In the meantime the simple people of the Cedros peninsula are being manhandled and brutalised by the nation’s defence force and police because they dare to express fear for the welfare of their community and the future of their children.

The Maha Sabha has a large Hindu membership on this south-western peninsula. In fact, there are 11 Hindu temples stretching from Point Fortin to Boodram Village at the southernmost tip of Icacos.

They are joined together by a Maha Sabha-sponsored organisation called the Southwestern Association of the Hindu Mandirs Inc and they have written to the Maha Sabha for our support and involvement.

Their letter to us:

Greetings in the name of Dharma. We are of the mentioned association which includes 11 Hindu temples which are located in the southwestern peninsula of Trinidad. This letter is to inform you, sir, of intended construction of an aluminium smelter plant in the Chatham-Cedros peninsula.

This project by Government will affect directly a number of Hindu residents as well as residents of other ethnic background.

We are therefore asking for your direct intervention on behalf of our community in lobbying the Government to desist from building such a plant in our area. Here are other reasons why the plant should not be built here:

i. The labour position—only a few thousand persons would be employed from this area during the construction of the plant. Upon completion only a minimum number who have the relevant qualification would be employed on a permanent basis. We have seen this done at Atlantic LNG.

ii. The proposed site is sitting on a natural aquifer. The ground water derived from this aquifer is pure spring water and needs little purification whatsoever to make it potable.

iii. We are dependent on agriculture and fishing. With regards to agriculture, the destruction of arable agriculture lands would go to waste. Most of the people in the surrounding villages depend on the sea as a means of earning a livelihood. With runoff from this plant, fishes are going to die or just move out of the area.

We have already seen a marked decrease in our fishing stock with the building and dredging for the Atlantic LNG. Fishermen from Point Ligoure, Hollywood, Fanny Village and Cap-de-Ville have suffered, and we do not want to add the Chatham/ Icacos area to that list.

iv. This peninsula boasts some great beaches and recreational areas, such as Granville, Bonasse and Columbus Bays. Cricket and football facilities in Chatham, Granville, Bonasse, Fullerton and Icacos will be also affected.

We are, therefore, asking you to recommend to the Government that they revamp the coconut estates, invest in the production of buffalypso, dairy farming, agriculture and tourism. In doing so, we will be able to lower the food import bill, generate long-term employment and conserve the environment for ourselves and future generations.

Sir, may I end here by pointing out the Indian and Hindu community is the second largest ethnic grouping in the peninsula.

We thank you and look forward to an early response.

The Maha Sabha has taken a decision to assist the people of the Cedros peninsula and to become fully involved in educating the national community of the dangers of the proposed aluminium smelter plant at Chatham.

SATNARAYAN MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha


Post a Comment

<< Home