Thursday, June 11, 2009

Response to Guardian frontpage story June 11, 2009

Dear Editor,

The Headline Carried in The Guardian New Papers: “Mom blames smelter protest for baby’s death” is imbalanced and contains several inaccuracies.

On Tuesday June 9, there were protests in La Brea at two points. One was at Sobo Village and the other at Union Village. We are not sure where Ms. Thomas was delayed. However, the villagers of Union Village are very sorry to hear that Ms. Thomas’ baby, who fell from a bed and was injured at home, later died. We wish to express our sincere condolences to Ms. Thomas and Stamlin.

We are however, very disturbed that the death of this child is being portrayed as having happened at the hand of villagers. The police have the full power to take charge of emergency transportation if a medical situation presents itself during protest action. It is unfortunate that the police did not exercise this judgment in Ms. Thomas’ case. If at any time this situation was brought to the attention of the villagers we would have certainly intervened where the police didn’t. We would have with haste cleared the road and asked the police to escort her to the hospital. However, if the delay arose at the Union Village site, this was never told to us either by Ms. Thomas or the police.

Had the Guardian contacted us for our perspective when writing this story, we would have provided you with this relevant fact and assisted the journalist to prepare a more balanced article free from other inaccuracies.

We appreciate too well the importance of life and one’s children. Our peaceful and legal protest actions are aimed at protecting our lives and children’s lives from sickness and death that is associated with the Alutrint Smelter. We hope that the rest of the country can understand what it means to have to live with the reality that you and your babies have to be tested every two years for life threatening diseases caused by a development, which was supposed to be for your betterment.

We have now provided the media through written statements as well verbal interviews with very clear information that we are not protesting for jobs. We are seeking to protect our lives and community. Therefore, we would be grateful if you would also correct the inaccuracy in your article that the protest was for jobs in the smelter complex.

Mr. Elijah Gour,
President, Union Village Council, La Brea.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009



JUNE 9, 2009

We understand Mr. Manning is planning to come La Brea tomorrow to turn the sod for Alutrint's power plant.


Protests involving the villages of Sobo, Vance River, Vessigny, and Union are growing. The citizens involved are against the building of the Alutrint Smelter. We now have the information that Alutrint has been hiding since February 2008 on the health risks of the smelter and the facts on such things as the loss of our beach that has been hidden from us since 2005.

Please note protests that started about two weeks ago were for jobs and fair relocation practices. However, our protest is by villagers being left to live near this smelter and we do not want it! The residents scheduled for relocation and the residents being left behind are standing together.

Those who want jobs in Alutrint have a separate platform. However, we sympathise with them as we have all been fooled that there would be safe jobs for our people. Instead we have hundreds of Chinese roaming about our backyards.

The representatives on many village councils and in the Parliament are representing Alutrint not us. They are trying to shove the smelter down our throat to silence us. This is why we are in the streets, we are representing ourselves.

Today the police discharged a firearm in the air in the midst of children in Union Village. Our protest is non-violent. We will not back down.

The State wants the people of Trinidad to believe that only a handful of residents of La Brea do not want the smelter. This is not true. For example, last week when C-news came to do a feature on La Brea they were only taken to La Brea Village where some persons told them they want the smelter. We waited for them but they never came to our villages. Please note the La Brea area consists of many villages. It is the some 4000 plus residents of Sobo, Vance River, Union, and Vessigny villages that have to be tested every two years for cancer. The residents of La Brea Village do not have to be tested. They cannot speak for us! We speak for ourselves. We do not accept this hurtful smelter.

The State is trying to create the impression that all is well and that the smelter is moving ahead at pace and is unstoppable. They want the people of Trinidad to believe we cannot stop it. This is not true. There is no plant on the ground yet. No plant will go on that ground.

We are calling on right minded citizens of Trinidad to support our call for justice and fairness. This is not just about the environment. We will continue our non-violent protests tomorrow and as long as it takes to safeguard our health and community.

M. Greaves, Sobo Village, Tel:795-5377
E. Gour, Union Village, Tel: 364-4574