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Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah

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By Anna Ramdass

For the past 16 years, Tobago House Assembly (THA) minority leader Ashworth Jack has been the representative for the electoral district of Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah.

On Monday, Jack will be leading the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) team to contest the THA election and also defend the seat for another term. Jack is seeking to unseat current Chief Secretary Orville London for the post of Chief Secretary.

However, the candidates from the People's National Movement (PNM) and The Platform of Truth (TPT) camps are confident that they can unseat Jack by wooing voters with their own visions for the area.

The Express spoke to the three contenders for the electoral district who shared some of the plans they would make a reality if elected.

TOP candidate, Ashworth Jack, Minority Leader, Tobago House of Assembly, was asked: Why should you be re-elected?

His response:

Enough was not done and there was a deliberate attempt to starve the electoral district of resources. Since 2004 I would have highlighted a number of works for repairs and the then secretary for works Mr Sandy would have told me that they were repairing roads by constituency and they did not reach mine yet. It is in this year before the election they tried to do some work to the roads....the constituency.

The Moriah playing field was started in 2001 it still has not been completed, we are in 2013, the field is just finishing, no car park, no pavilion, no change facility. We want to acquire a piece of land to build a full-size playing field for that area. We want to put in children play parks in Mason Hall, Mount Grace and Moriah. We also intend to set up a training area where the young men and women can find training; a lot of them are unskilled and depend on CEPEP and URP.

There is the Highlands Waterfall, we intend to open access to it so that we can create jobs in terms of tourism. Also, in the Mason Hall area there is a water wheel, a couple hundred years old, we would want to partner with private organisations to open up that and create a tourist attraction.

We recognise that young men and women go to the playing fields, as the colloquial language says "to ketch a sweat", but there's not any proper supervision. I want to set up small offices at all those playing fields and hire village coaches who will be able to set up programmes every afternoon.

There are some infrastructure problems in some of those areas that need to be addressed in terms of roads and drainage. One of the roads—the Easter Field Road—up to 2001 all the infrastructure work was completed, it was just to be paved, but nothing was done, it is almost mashed up and it is one of the biggest roads in terms of farming.

The Menna Connector Road is another farming road that was totally neglected.

These roads lead to agriculture plots and the issue of Tobago not being able to feed itself is one we have to deal with. One of the problems farmers in Tobago are faced with, if you plant an excess of anything it goes to waste because there is no cold storage facility to hold extra produce. We will be constructing a couple storage facilities equipped with chillers and freezers where meats and agricultural produce will be stored.

It is under my watch that the Indian Walk Estate was acquired, that the Adelphi estates were acquired, that the hard courts have been put in. What we are moving now to do is to address the management of the facilities, engage the clubs in those areas and contract them to maintain the playing fields so in that way they don't go cap in hand begging for uniforms. It also creates employment for club members.

I am sure that what the people in my constituency will tell you is that one of the strong points of Ashworth Jack is that I'm always there for them, whether it is disasters or sporting activities. It is interesting that the PNM representative has said I have not done anything, yet every event at the Moriah Youth club that they had was sponsored by me.

PNM candidate Sheldon Cunningham, 40, local case manager at the Tobago Health Promotion clinic, counsellor and tester of HIV/AIDS was asked: Why should you be elected?

His response:

We will have someone winning the seat and someone not so successful and regardless of what actually is going to happen, I don't have any fear because whatever God has planned, he is going to go according to that plan. My aim is to represent the people, doing what I should do on the ground, doing what I know as God would have want me to do, do just that.

If anybody would have listened to any of the speeches that I have put forward I had nothing to say about anyone. I am not in that race of putting down anyone because we are all God's children.

There are a couple issues that I will address. The recreation grounds—make sure that they are ok, ensure that the facilities are ready for the young people, bringing back football academies into the communities. So basically I am seeing the issues from the walkabouts I have been having from house to house and some of the things that the people have requested in terms of road, drainage, employment.

We're looking at an agricultural cottage industry in Mason Hall especially. I've already put a proposal together, I'm just waiting until the time is right and then go back to the community.

In Moriah we look at football, we look at agricultural access roads to lands in terms of persons and the distance they have to travel with their produce after getting them and also assisting them in controlling the pests.

In sports, utilising the recreation grounds that have been built because it makes no sense having recreation grounds and they are not properly used. We must have sports tourism in the communities in terms of fostering the young people and getting them involved in this.

In tourism, we have Argyle Falls which is very beautiful but we need proper access to it. We also have a water wheel, a sugar cane mill, water well. How many persons know about wells and see wells? These are some of the things I plan to develop and have them utilised to create employment in the communities.

We know that almost 85 per cent of persons employed in Tobago are working with the THA, we have to diversify that and create access to private operations.

TPT candidate Ernest Belfon, 70, former public servant and taxi driver was also asked: Why should you be elected?

His response:

I will start with the roads, they have been neglected because this is an opposition area. What the people need is the roads to be fixed.

Moriah needs a proper facility for sport, there is no facility for toilets, no area for sitting and so on.

The roads in Mason Hall also need to be fixed. We just came from Easter Field road, the drainage in that road was put in 12 years ago when Hochoy Charles left office. Nothing was done, the road is almost impassable, all they needed to do was to maintain it but they did nothing. The roads in Mount Grace as well have been neglected and in need of repairs.

The fields in Tobago, they didn't run any lights and nobody can use them in the night, these are some of the things I plan to bring the community together to get them organised.

I will talk to the people and let them tell me exactly what they want because I can look at things but we need to meet with the people and let them have a say in what they want.

The Platform of Truth is the only eligible party in Tobago that is not controlled by any party in Trinidad and for years Hochoy Charles has been fighting for Tobago and there is evidence all over he has opened up roads. Everybody will tell you that Mr Hochoy Charles is the man, he speaks the truth and I go for truth. For years I have been following the party and I decide to put myself up so I can serve the people.

Mr Charles always fought for Tobago, he fought so we could get money in Tobago. He also bought two generators when we were having problems with T&TEC. He also dug wells, the water we are getting now is from the wells that are connected to the system. He has built the deep water, the airport, he sent people to Grenada to further their education. Trinidad had complained it was not credible but now they are sending their students to Grenada.

We have been educating the people and we believe if they vote according to the education they got and don't follow after flags and thing, we will be successful. This is an election with serious prayer and most of the people know this party comes from a church background so we believe in God and if the people listen to the issues, we will win the election. Don't follow banners, flags and trucks, vote sensibly and vote the Platform of Truth, the symbol of a clean pair of hands and a pure heart.

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