The trinidad Guardian / Over the years, Trinbagonians have started pinching themselves over their complacent thinking that “God is a Trini.” In light of the severity of the natural disasters which have devastated the region this year, we should, instead, slap ourselves with the reality that we are very vulnerable to and easily affected by natural disasters.
The present flooding disaster in some areas is a clear indication that the infrastructure of Trinidad and Tobago cannot withstand any hurricanes let alone a ten-minute downpour in our capital city! Given the radical climate changes and unpredictable weather conditions, the Government must invest in advanced technological research and response mechanisms. For example, the time has come to seriously consider whether we need pumping stations established throughout the country to get rid of excessive rainfall very quickly. We must work towards long-term measures being implemented.
More than this is our response mechanisms. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management was brutally slow in responding to the present flooding in east, south east and south Trinidad which commenced more than a week ago. The Head of the ODPM stated that whilst the rest of the nation sees the present situation as a “big thing,” he and the ODPM see it as a “small thing.”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is on record as saying that an immediate review must be undertaken to “ensure we have in the ODPM, the personnel with the attitude and aptitude to respond to this kind of thing.”
But is this a tenable statement coming from the present administration?
Just like so many other appointments, the Government has a trending record of appointing square pegs in round holes and when the damage is complete, it simply seeks to pass the buck. This is exactly what is happening now with the Government and the ODPM. An agency like the ODPM ought not to be chanced with, period! In the meantime, people are suffering the devastating consequences.
Social media has now dubbed ODPM as “Only Dominica People Matter.” This might easily appear crass, but it is a response of a frustrated people. After all, people were crying out for help but ODPM did not respond. But the only thing that could be worse than an incompetent government is an uncaring one.
The people of this country are amazed at the reactions of some members of the Government to the plight of the people. The response to our last major flooding in south Trinidad was “what do you expect if you build your house in a lagoon.” So it was the people’s fault that they were being flooded out.
This time around, the Prime Minister had not the time nor the inclination to visit flood-ravaged places. He stated in a press conference that he was glad that people wanted to see him but that he had different responsibilities. Saying “No” to the people of Tunapuna, La Horquetta, Caparo, Chase Village, St Helena/Piarco, Fyzabad, Mosquito Creek, Penal/Debe and Mayaro was a most uncaring act knowing fully well that citizens were desperately reaching out to the Honourable Prime Minister. Yet he is jetting off to Belize with an entourage of about ten people for a Summit on natural disasters.
The thinking is mind boggling. The leader of the nation is jetting off to a Summit on natural disasters whilst his own country is experiencing a major one. Maybe the PM is going to enlighten the world with “real-time” footage of what not to do when a natural disaster occurs. God help us all.
Regardless of this uncaring approach at the leadership level, we as a people must stick together. Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Schools, temples and other institutions have been on a collection and distribution drive to aid flood victims. We must help those who are by this time not seeing the end to the flood waters inside their homes. I cannot think of a worse tragedy.