HEAVILY ARMED police officers stood nearby as Minister of Works and Infrastructure Emmanuel George held a meeting with residents of La Brea and surrounding communities shortly after a protest over bad roads yesterday.
George, surrounded by police officers of the South-Western Division Task Force and La Brea Police Station, addressed some 200 residents at Pt D'or Junction.
The group had earlier protested along South Trunk Road, claiming their roads were "deplorable" and "virtually impassable".
From as early as 4 a.m., the seven-mile-long South Trunk Road, passing through the areas of Aripero, Rousillac, Vance River, La Brea and Point Fortin, was blocked with burning tyres and debris.
Before arriving in La Brea, George told the Express he believed the residents protested after learning he planned to meet in La Brea with Member of Parliament Fitzgerald Jeffrey and president of the Point Fortin to San Fernando Taxi Drivers' Association John David.
When George arrived in La Brea at 2 p.m., he was mobbed by people calling for smoother roads, as well as jobs.
George, who was accompanied by Director of Highways Roger Ganesh and programme director for the Programme for Upgrading Roads Efficiency (PURE) Hayden Phillip, announced to protesters that a contractor had already been hired and work could begin on the roadway yesterday.
"Some weeks ago, there was a protest at Vance River, and I asked officials to report what happened. We have been organising the money for the contractor to do the work," he told the crowd.
Protesters asked the minister who the contractor was, and George named a contractor from Siparia.
Protesters shouted that there were contractors in Point Fortin who could have been hired, and residents from the area should have been hired.
Police officers, along with Local Government councillor for Brighton/ Vessigny Gerald Debesette, quelled the crowd, and Ganesh said the contractor was present and willing to start work almost immediately as long as the site was cleared.
Debesette told the Express: "The Southern Main Road leading to Point Fortin is in a deplorable condition, and we were supposed to set up a meeting with Stacy Roopnarine but that never materialised. The residents are frustrated. They are saying enough is enough.
"This is a shame since this area has millions of dollars worth of resources from which the Government is getting revenue, but it does not trickle down to the people living here.
"The Government is exporting millions in asphalt all over the world, but the worse roads are in this area," he added.