When the first independent Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago was inaugurated on August 31, 1962, there were 30 members in the House of Representatives, and 24 in the Senate.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Senator J Hamilton Maurice was elected President of the Senate and three senators were appointed as Ministers. In the House of Representatives C Arnold Thomasos was elected Speaker and nine members of the House of Representatives, including Dr Eric Williams, were appointed as Ministers.
After 50 years since the first Parliament was opened in 1962, only one Senator, Nicholas Simonette, is still alive. In the House of Representatives, out of the 30 members, five are alive. This number included former MPs Kamaluddin Mohammed (Barataria,) ANR Robinson, (Tobago East) Balgobin Ramdeen, (Caroni East) Tajmool Hosein, (Chaguanas) and Alexander Alexis (La Brea.)
Robinson was appointed Minister of Finance and Mohammed Minister of Public Utilities in the first independent Cabinet of Dr Eric Williams. Mohammed was mandated to develop the ailing utilities of the country which had become a major priority. "In offering the portfolio to me, Williams had outlined four major challenges for me to pursue. Development of an effective railway system, a policy on water distribution, a sewerage and waste water disposal system and a new policy on shipping, aviation and postal services," said Mohammed.
"The task was enormous", he said, "because for the first time an attempt was made to place all public utilities functions under a single portfolio."
The islandwide sewerage project had preceded independence by three months. In June Mohammed announced the launch of the scheme in which the pipes to be used in the sewerage scheme would be manufactured by Lock Joint Pipe Company of New Jersey, USA, under a $30.7 million scheme earmarked for completion in 1964.
Mohammed said, "Initially when government first viewed the health provisions it was found that there were many inadequacies in the area of environmental health, and more specifically the disposal of sewerage. Only one sewer system existed in Trinidad at the time to serve the residents of Port of Spain."
The next major development was the establishment of a Port Authority. "The disorganisation of the wharves had cost Trinidad millions of dollars to Barbados Deep Water Harbour, and there was need for improved cargo handling, storing, bunkering and berthing," said Mohammed. To correct the problems at the port, in May 1962 a committee was appointed and headed by PET O'Connor, a former general manager of Kern Trinidad Oilfields Ltd, with Dr Zin Henry a consultant in Personnel Management, and members B I Lalsingh, Senator Inskip Julien, and Patrick Young Sing.
At the time of the appointment of the Authority the President of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers' Union, Daniel Reid, was appealing to the port workers to increase their productivity in the face of mounting challenges from the Barbados Deep Water Harbour.
Next came the airport development with plans to extend the facilities at Piarco by acquiring lands owned by Trinidad Sugar Estate at Maloney. The purpose of the acquisition was for the extension of the runway to accommodate larger aircraft to land.
Earlier in the year the runway at Crown Point Airport (renamed the ANR Robinson International Airport) was opened by Mohammed. Referring to the paving of the runway Mohammed said, "On completion the 6,500 feet long and 150 feet wide will be capable of taking aircraft up to 66,000 pounds."
A new terminal building was also erected at Piarco and completed in time for the arrival of Her Royal Highness Princess Royal who was the Queen's representative at the independence celebrations in August.
Improvement to the public transportation system was not an easy task for Mohammed. With the pending closure of the railway and the setting up of a Public Transport Service Corporation there was the need to acquire more buses to replace the intake of passengers travelling along the East West corridor and to San Fernando. The difficulties were in the area of concessions that were previously granted to several operators. Transportation in Port of Spain was run by the city transport; in Diego Martin and Carenage the system was operated by Sam's Super Service, Port of Spain to Sangre Grande by Arima bus service, Port of Spain to San Fernando and Point Fortin by the Trinidad Bus Service; San Fernando to Princes Town by Princes Town special bus service, and Tobago service was provided by Charles Mc Enearney and company Ltd.
The bus concessionaires had resisted any change in the existing operations, and in order for the government to take over the services previously offered by various concessionaires a Bill had to be introduced in Parliament devising a structure for a permanent national bus service. It was during that debate that Mohammed had announced the scrapping of the railway and the creation of a service to be run by government.
The winning and distribution of water was also a thorny issue in the 60s. There were 12 agencies responsible for matters relating to water. It was imperative that if an efficient supply was water was to be made available to the public all the agencies would have to be brought under one umbrella.
The Central Water Distribution Authority was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the distribution systems, the Works Department for drainage and flood control, private companies were responsible for the drilling and extraction of water, while the county councils and boroughs of Arima and San Fernando had their own water supply facilities and Port of Spain City Council was responsible for winning its own water and administering a sewerage scheme.
All agencies had to be brought under one management. It was decided to amalgamate all the organisations into one. To bring them under one authority was a tremendous task. "After extensive negotiations, by September 1965 the Water and Sewerage Authority was established as the sole body responsible for all matters relating to Water and Sewerage.
From the amalgamation of all the public utilities was born the Public Utilities Commission which was designed to regulate all utilities companies in Trinidad and Tobago.