Government Minister Dr Lovell Francis says there is a community in Moruga where citizens use lagoon water to bathe, wash and cook and their homes have floors that they “leepay”.
To “leepay” is to use a mixture of dirt and water to spread on surfaces such as walls and floors in place of cement. The Moruga/Tableland MP vowed to improve the lives of this community, saying that these persons are not supporters of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and no votes might be gained but he will not leave them in those conditions.
In his contribution to the budget debate in Parliament yesterday, Francis, Minister in the Ministry of Education, said he visited this community (which he did not name) in 2015 and these people live on State land surrounded by private land so their community is like an island.
“Madam Speaker, there are people in this country who are still living in 19th century, they have no running water, they have no electricity. Madam Speaker, I told myself when I campaigned there and I saw those families..that if I didn’t do something to help them I should not even be entertaining going back as a Member of Parliament,” he said.
He said the people who own the private lands are refusing to grants access for the State to run water and electricity channels to this community.
“They are literally on an island, Madam Speaker they are still using the lagoon water to cook, to bathe, to wash,” he said, adding he might have to seek the Attorney General’s help.
“Madam Speaker, these people live in homes many of them have no floors and if you know anything about country living there is a traditional kind of floor we call ‘leepay’ where the floor is prepared, it is almost like cement, it’s not even that, they are literally living on the dirt of the ground,” said Francis.
He said if he cannot do anything in terms of helping them get lights and water the least to do is get proper housing and work on the rest after.
Francis said he will be taking the Home Village Improvement Programme (HVIP) to help this community in the next year.
“Madame Speaker I would be very frank, they are not supporters of this party, we mightn’t get a vote out of it but you know what, that don’t matter, these are human beings and if I meet them in that condition and I leave them in that condition as an MP from the constituency and live in the constituency then I am worse than anybody who would have come before and come after,” he said.
He boasted that the HVIP was a success in delivering some 70 homes to the people of Samuel Cooper Road, Fifth Company, Moruga and this “Moruga experiment” will go national to help those in need of proper housing.
Francis also criticised Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who had threatened to take legal action against the Government on behalf of the citizens of Gomez Trace, St Mary’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing project.
The MP said he is capable of doing his job and he does not need Persad-Bissessar’s help.
Francis admitted there are issues with the development which he took to the HDC and which the State entity promised to resolve.
“They were not fixed overnight, these things happen, everything takes time,” he said , adding that the substantive structural issues will be addressed as well as the pricing issues.