Princes Town MP, Barry Padarath has condemned the Minister of Public Utilities for not addressing the failing infrastructure of WASA and instead encourages citizens to sue the State.
The Opposition Shadow Minister for Public Utilities said that the government for the past eight years has been speaking about restructuring WASA so that there will be greater efficiency and delivery, however that has not materialized. Instead, the aging and dilapidated infrastructure of WASA has caused several homes and properties across the county to be affected and this also includes local and main roads.
The Princes Town MP stated that instead of the Minister confronting these challenges head on and fixing the problems that exist in terms of major infrastructural works across the country to curb leaking pipelines that undermines the integrity and foundation of properties, the Minister is instead telling citizens to sue the State.
Padarath stated that while citizens have a right to seek judicial relief, the Minister is not addressing the root cause of the problems and therefore judicial relief comes at the expense of the taxpayers who fund the national budget and in effect WASA. Padarath added that when a citizen sues WASA, they are in effect suing the State.
The Princes Town MP reminded Minister Marvin Gonzales that the award of damages to a client making a claim against any State Company or Ministry comes from the coffers of the government. Therefore, instead of Minister Gonzales encouraging citizens to sue the State, he should seek to address the fundamental issues at WASA. Padarath said that this is the same Minister of Public Utilities who has denied that the dilapidated WASA pipelines were causing roads and homes to collapse in Princes Town, Moruga, Tableland and Naparima up to January 2023.
The Opposition Shadow Minister for Public Utilities encouraged Minister Gonzales to spend less time in talking hot air and rhetoric and focus on the capital investment programs and infrastructural works that are needed to stop communities from losing homes as a result of corroded pipelines with major underground leaks undermining private and public properties. He added that the Minister continues to bury his head in the sand while making bravado comments and still not addressing the issues. He further stated that for a Minister to encourage citizens to sue State Entities without focusing his energies on fixing the problems was highly irresponsible.
Padarath is calling on the government to say whether this is their official policy and whether the Cabinet supports Gonzales statements against the backdrop of little or no improvements to WASA in the past eight years under the PNM.
The Princes Town MP stated that the Minister cannot simply claim ignorance of the matters before WASA since it is the government that appoints the board of WASA. The Minister of Public Utilities is the line Minister for WASA and therefore should have assessed the approach WASA is taking to claims of negligence, seek legal advice and work with WASA to resolve these matters and address the root causes in other instances to avoid a recurrence. He added that advising citizens to sue is a temporary bandage that will continue to hemorrhage the company when investments can be made in long term solutions from the perspective of the government.