by Capil Bissoon
The Rowley PNM seems to have a death wish for people of La Brea, one of its most loyal constituencies.
After decades of neglect caused in part by poor representation, the best it is offering La Brea today is a plywood factory, which presents serious health issues and environmental challenges similar to what existed with the smelter plant that the former PNM administration was going to build without any proper environmental assessment and with scant regard for the health and welfare of citizens.
By contrast the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership Government has a vision for a booming, bustling 21st century town with investments running into billions of dollars that would generate economic activity and bring prosperity.
La Brea’s neglect did not start overnight. It was a case of taking the people for granted… so typical of the PNM as evidenced in the neglect of so many other loyal PNM constituencies including Diego Martin West, which Keith Rowley has represented since 1991.
La Brea’s MP in the Tenth Parliament, Fitzgerald Jeffrey, has tried to blame this administration for all of La Brea’s problems. But he failed to acknowledge that to improve La Brea’s economic fortunes requires long-term planning and investments, which take many years.
The economy remains depressed with high levels of unemployment especially among youths in a town that has supplied our country with abundant energy resources for more than a century.
The irony of it all is this constituency is likely to return a PNM MP to Parliament, who like her predecessors, will continue the tradition of neglect. But great is the PNM and it can do anything to La Brea and win.
Not only has La Brea been subject to PNM neglect but the PNM has championed projects in La Brea that would literally kill.
Remember the ill-fated $3.4 billion Sural smelter plant which the PNM tried to foist on La Brea?
Residents of La Brea and elsewhere protested because of health concerns and lack of consultation. The High Court quashed the CEC —the environmental certificate granted by the EMA —and the present Government pulled the plug on the project.
In January 2014, Dr Rowley indicated that Sural was suing the Government to recover over $644 million and the company would win. Sural sued for $750 million.
In May this year, arbitrators dismissed Sural’s claim and ordered them to pay Government’s legal costs of nearly $17 million.
Now the PNM has touted a plywood factory for La Brea. Like the smelter plant, plywood manufacture is subject to significant health risks associated with noise, formaldehyde, wood dust and manual load handling.
Formaldehyde is the chemical that recently caused Yara Trinidad Limited (formerly Fedchem) to pay $1million to 55-year-old, former lab assistant Robert Daisley who contracted two forms of cancer – nasopharyngeal and prostate – after 16 years exposure to chemicals including formaldehyde.
According to medical evidence presented in court, it is highly likely that formaldehyde exposure was the probable cause of his nasopharyngeal cancer.
The International Journal of Forest Engineering of July 1999 lists exposure to formaldehyde as a critical health risk in plywood manufacturing in a study entitled, “Risks for the Health of Workers in Plywood Manufacturing: A Case Study in Italy”.
The study reports that “work related illnesses and accidents are respectively five and two times higher than the mean values for industrial production sectors in general”.
I would suggest that Dr Rowley re-examine his plywood factory for La Brea not only for those concerns but the fact that it is entirely dependent on its raw material — timber — from Guyana and the potential for employment is so insignificant.
By comparison, the Partnership Government has significant and mind-boggling plans for La Brea.
It has identified the Southwest peninsula as one of five economic growth poles. It has completed a 720 megawatt powerplant costing US$720million in La Brea. The planned upgrade of the Brighton Port will increase capacity for transshipment of goods, bringing significant returns to our country.
Until Ancel Roget started his foolishness by engaging in his trademark thuggery, the Juniper platform, part of a wider US$2.1 billion investment by bpTT in our country would have brought over 300 jobs to the area. Those jobs have now left for Texas.
Mitsubishi has committed to an US$850 million investment in a Methanol to DME petrochemical plant in La Brea to create over 2,000 jobs in the construction phase and 180 upon completion.
The new police station in Guapo and the nearly completed Point Fortin Highway will boost La Brea’s infrastructural development and improve their lives.
If residents of La Brea were minded to vote in support of their well-being and quality of life, the Partnership Government would win hands down.
What a pity.