Andy-Johnson-Columnist-use

He emerged as the PNM’s consensus candidate for the constituency of La Brea in the last general election after the humiliation of Robert Le Hunte.

From a discussion at the constituency office on the main road in Three Hands, La Brea, a couple weeks ago Stephen Mc Clashie has revealed himself as someone seeking to write a new prospectus for the representation of the people. His children coaxed him, he said, to go for screening, after some of the constituency groups approached him. The big favourite for the position, Le Hunte, had been repeatedly rejected. The details of this are well known.

McClashie had a track record of membership and engagement in civic organisations such as the Jaycees, Rotary and, as he put it, “through education and lecturing and so on”.

The discussion began around the query as to what are the reasons people go to see their MP, and how their concerns and requests are addressed.

“I’m always drawn to the statement by the former president, about the powers you think I have, and the powers you think I don’t have,” he said.

“A lot of people do not understand the role and function of an MP versus the role of local government and so on. So what happens is, because of that, they come to you with so many issues and you have no budget, you have no real control. And at best, you can seek to encourage. But really and truly, it becomes difficult, delivering the hardcore services that people really think that you can deliver to them.”

He said, nevertheless, there is a lot that is still possible. “For instance, people who are looking for help with regard to house repairs, or generally with issues with health, or with immigration, our offices are generally configured well to guide them in the right direction. But when it comes to road paving, drainage, land slippages, those things are the ones that cause you the most grief, and are the ones that you have very little capacity to do yourself, and it’s always done by way of a programme, rather than by way of the constituency.”

He said many people still don’t get that MPs are focused on the creation of good government, good governance and legislation. “They do not understand that path at all because they see, like Stalin would say, that sufferers really don’t care.

“They see their personal issues not being addressed. And they don’t care who it comes from. But since the MP is the high profile person in the community, then they bring all their troubles to you and we still have to go back to the people who have the budget, and the necessary means to get it done. So it’s really walking a pipeline.”

He uses that term deliberately, to point out the extent to which this is a constituency in the heart of one of the country’s oil and gas-rich regions.

Based on where he lived, and where he worked over time, he had been a member of a party group in Fyzabad and then in Pt Fortin. And that was it.

A procurement specialist and a supply chain executive, he had worked at such enterprises as Atlantic LNG, at PowerGen and NGC, and was a board member at Trinidad Lake Asphalt.

If there is a single line of sight for him as the MP now, he describes it as “simply on sustainability” over the long haul.

His view: “The approach to development in the consistency, over the last 25 years, is the box drain, the food card, and everything else. And nowhere can you point to any sustainable plan or development that would have transcended one cycle to the next. Therefore, my entire platform was based on the youth and sustainable development.

“Now while people suffering they don’t really care a sh..t about sustainable development. They care about the food hamper and they care about the grocery hamper and about the box drains.

“And the way I have configured my office is that I have enough competent people who could manage those issues, and get the service to the people, because at the end of the day, what you really want is service. There is no shade of grey. I have to say that luck has been on my side a bit, and in this business, you need a little bit of luck.

“But when I looked at the community and I saw the way things were, I felt that if I had to vote for myself, I would have found it hard to do so. Simply because of the fact that you can’t point to any development. You can’t point to any singular activity. You can point to nothing that a PNM constituency after 30-40 years could say we would have established this. You can’t say that.”

He has plans to create a system under which children would be educated to be able to get jobs in the industries to be opened up in parts of the constituency. He says children in the constituency perform at 30 per cent of the national average. Their parents have “neither jobs, nor stability nor education”. He speaks boldly, calmly, and assuredly.

—To be continued

Andy Johnson

is a veteran journalist

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