Friday, November 24, 2006

Letter to the Editor- Still waiting for smelter answers

I am the young woman who was told to shut up at the TV6 forum held at the Chatham Youth Centre on November 9. I would like to point out that MP Achong didn’t just tell me to shut up; he said it to every concerned citizen of T&T. It is my hope that we will all do the exact opposite.

We should not forget the reason behind the forum and the still unresolved issues. I think that we all need to refocus on the original issues here: the introduction of aluminium industries in Trinidad, the processes by which decisions are being made, and the feeling that the public’s opinions are being ignored.

I did not attend this public forum as an anti-smelter activist but as a citizen seeking more information and answers pertaining to the issues. The point I tried to make that night was that this issue is one of national importance and that all citizens are stakeholders and are entitled to information regardless of their place of residence.

Also, I want to point out that I have not yet received an answer to my question: “The people of Chatham have everything to lose…what do the people who are in favour of the smelters stand to lose?”

This is an important question as any development will have its gains and losses and the people of this country need to assess what they are willing to loose or risk losing for the benefits which aluminium smelting will bring to the country.

We must continue to let our concerns and questions be heard. Alcoa will be hosting two public consultation meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Chatham Youth Centre and at the St John’s Ambulance Hall (Port-of-Spain), respectively. Also, the Government will be having a symposium on the issue on December 6.

Our Members of Parliament are (or should be) willing to listen to your concerns through a letter or personal visit. We have every right to know the price at which our gas will be sold; we are entitled to demand that our land and our water be protected by the strictest possible environmental laws and the most rigorous monitoring and enforcement standards necessary.

We deserve to have our needs, dreams and expectations taken into account in the development of the south-western peninsula of our island.

One of the most poignant sentiments expressed at the meeting in question was that the land that people in Chatham live on has been handed down from generation to generation. They are trying to protect their inheritance and we should do the same. The social, environmental and economic implications of what happens in Chatham will affect all of us. We cannot afford to “shut up!”

I would like to expand on a question raised by one of Achong’s young constituents: what do we as a nation have to lose in the face of this proposed development?

We are still waiting for an answer.

Srishti Mohais


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