He is outspoken, he is a PNM and he is a true-blooded Arimian.
“J’arime”—patois for “I am a true Arimian”—might aptly describe Arima Mayor George Hadeed.
It is a term of endearment used proudly to describe other iconic Arima personalities: the likes of Aldwyn Roberts (Lord Kitchener), Holly Betaudier and Jones P Madeira.
Not only was he born on Farfan Street, he also attended Teacher Lucy Kindergarten, Arima Boys’ Government, Holy Cross College and went on take over his family’s fabric store at Queen Street, Arima. But unlike the others, Hadeed is a politician.
He has also been a firm supporter of the People’s National Movement (PNM) since 1997, and is not afraid to tell fellow Arimian and former PNM MP and senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson she is guilty of “misjudgment”.
The Sunday Express asked the newly-installed mayor his thoughts on Beckles-Robinson’s appearance at a United National Congress (UNC) curry duck event in Debe two weeks ago, mere days after she was fired from her senatorial post by PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley.
While he felt there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the PNM lady vice chairman attending a UNC function, he believes she showed a lapse in judgment when she decided to address UNC supporters.
“My thoughts are that there is nothing wrong with a member of the PNM attending a UNC function. I too am friendly with quite a number of Government people, some I met when they were MPs, others I knew when they were out of Parliament.”
Beckles-Robinson, who has signalled her intention to fight Rowley for leadership of the party next year, has been linked to floor-crossing allegations to the Jack Warner-led Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Warner described her as a friend of 25 years, but refused to state “yay or nay” whether he had approached her to fight the St Joseph by-election on an ILP ticket last month.
Hadeed’s foray into politics dates back to 1997, when he decided to hitch his tent to a PNM wagon. “As a businessman I tended not to become involved in the politics, but in 1996-1997 I decided to take a stand because I did not like what was going on with the UNC-led government at the time. I officially joined the party in 1997 because I really believe in their policies and what they stand for, and have been actively involved since.”
Hadeed was appointed to the Senate during the period 2007 to 2010 and served as vice-president.
Hadeed served as the youngest president of the Eastern Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as a former president of the Arima Rotary Club.
Mixing the mantle of business and politics with social work, Hadeed was also the former chairman of the Memisa Centre for the physically challenged at Heights of Aripo.
As head of the eastern borough, which has a swelling population of some 75,000 people, Hadeed intends to spearhead plans to ensure Arima gets a hospital, its unemployment rate (especially among the youth) is lowered and crime and murders decrease.
“I believe there is need for a 150- to 200-bed hospital which provides full services and is capable of dealing with major disasters,” he said, explaining that Arima has the closest health facility to Piarco International Airport.
“God help us if any major disasters occurs there since Arima health facility, as it obtains now, is not equipped to handle that.”
Hadeed said he was seeking a meeting with the North Central Regional Health Authority to see exactly what plans it had for the Arima Hospital, since he has been hearing conflicting reports that Arima would be getting only an additional wing to the existing facility. “I can assure you that in my term I will seek a meeting with the North Central Regional Health Authority to see exactly what are the plans in early January 2014. I would like a facility that would offer all the services since Arima is the third largest town in the country and deserves a facility to accommodate the needs of 75,000 people,” he explained.
Escalating crime and murders have caused some to equate the semi-rural town with another hotspot—Laventille.
Hadeed recalls he was not invited to the opening of the new Arima Police Station.
“Although I was not invited to opening of the new police station, I want to work closely with the senior officers in charge of the various stations so that I can have a fair idea from them of plans to deal with the hotspots.
I know crime is a burning issue so it is my intention to return Arima to a crime-free area.”
Vagrancy is also a major issue in the borough. Hadeed said he was willing to work with Central Government and all the relevant stakeholders to resolve this social issue, and believes a well-maintained facility to offer shelter, meals and safety is the way to go. “I believe the homeless shouldn’t be cast aside, but must be rehabilitated.”
In terms of job creation for young Arimians, the Mayor said during his numerous walks throughout the streets of his constituency, the youth were clamouring for sustainable employment.
“They do not just want CEPEP or URP ten-days work, and we have to find a way to create some kind of sustainable plan. I would like to seek a forum with them and create a database first and foremost to see the extent of the problem. We can then feed that info with Central Government and work with them to find jobs,” Hadeed said.
As to bringing back some sense of cultural unity and revival in the borough, since Carnival seems to have died, Hadeed has some ideas which he may unveil for next year’s Arimafest celebrations.
He believes the National Carnival Commission needs to rethink its regional Carnival strategy and its judging points. In fact, Hadeed, a former chairman of the Arima Carnival Committee, sees Arimafest as the stage to host an Arima-type carnival, with the input of all the big bands from Port of Spain.
“Arimafest could be our own Carnival Monday and Tuesday mas, and in that way people in the east could definitely enjoy their Carnival.”
The Sunday Express asked Hadeed about his predictions for the PNM’s chances in the 2015 general election. “We have a lot of work to do in Arima,” was his response.
He added, “Obviously the people of Arima are dissatisfied with the present administration. That’s why they voted the way they did... The PNM controls the entire council—seven councillors and four aldermen.”
He explained while the corporation could not control the extent of funding from Central Government, it intends to “represent in the best way possible to all living within the borough”.
He said under his stewardship, the corporation would be “fair to each and every burgess within the bounds of the resources we have. We have to be fair to all, whatever your political affiliation... Whether you voted for PNM or not is not my concern. We are here to work with everybody”.