Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has told members of the Community Recovery Committee that in the context of addressing the problems of at-risk urban communities, it would encompass the problem of the Afro-Trinidadians who make up the bulk of the people in these specific communities.

Addressing members of the committee on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: “There is a sensitivity that goes with this. A lot of the problem that you would be facing, to put it boldly and straight, is a problem of the Afro-Trinidadian...These areas where the problem exists and the people who are in these situations are people who are Afro-Trinidadian. There is no burying your head in the sand over that. If you are prepared to bury your head in the sand and not confront that issue, then you are fighting with one hand behind your back. You need to confront that issue, because that is what it is,” he said.

“It is nothing new. This problem goes way back, way, way back and the problems at the root have not disappeared. A lot of the fruits that we are reaping now, they go way, way back. There was never any day when you had grafted away the branches of those roots and you have to understand those roots to understand where this problem came from if you going to try and solve it in the context of the Afro-Trinidadian problem,” the Prime Minister stated.

He said this problem was now a wider problem, a national problem. “There is nobody who is immune to the effects of these failures...So you cannot be shy in confronting the nature (of the problem) in all its forms and facets,” he added.

The Prime Minister also promised significant financial support for the Committee. “One thing you could look forward to. As we prepare the national budget in the next few weeks, there will be a line item of significant financial support to support your effort in action-planning these problems where they exist,” he said. He asked the Committee to give him some preliminary positioning “so it forms part of the budgeting process. The budgeting process is quite advanced through the public service but this is a special case. The budget goes to the Parliament in September so you have, I would say six weeks, to come with a preliminary position with some ideas of what we can put in the budget to facilitate the work that you are going to be doing,” he said. “If you get to us by the middle of August, that would give the Ministry of Finance time to plug in whatever you would have come with, into whatever final documents go to the Parliament,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the Committee would need a secretariat, or something more than that, to support its work. He urged the Committee not to confirm itself to Laventille, but to other at-risk communities. He said there were at- risk districts in La Puerta, Bagatelle. It is a nationwide problem, he said. He also advised that there was no unidimensional solution. “Open a pan music in Laventille because they all want to play pan and they can become great pan players around the world. They all like pan music but in the tens of thousands...how many will become impresarios and experts. If one per cent does, that’s fine. But what about the other 99 per cent,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the Committee was not an election ploy or a gimmick. “It would be an insult to me personally to take an credit or advantage of your coming here for election purposes,” he said.

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