Lament for Laventille: David Nakhid blows whistle on government neglect and hypocrisy

“David,” Mama stands in the doorway and calls down the hill to me, “bring yuh skinny red self and get something to eat.”

‘Mama’ is my late mother’s mother and she lives not in middle class Champs Fleurs which was my base in my growing-up years but on the Hill. It is the school holidays—not summer because in Trinidad we enjoy summer heat every damn day—and I am in my glee.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago football star David Nakhid. (Courtesy Josanne Leonard)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago football star David Nakhid. Somewhere up in Laventille an abandoned community waits to be remembered.
(Courtesy Josanne Leonard)

On his way to work every morning for a full two weeks, my now deceased father would drop me off at the foot of the hill. Unafraid, excited, eager, I would make my way on foot up to Mama’s house, which stood solemnly directly opposite what I think was a Catholic church.

As I neared the house, I would be sure to hear a neighbour or two alerting the others in a sometimes exasperated, sometimes resigned tone: “Look Rudolph ball peong nephew come fuh holidays again.” Rudolph ball peong nephew is what I was to them. I didn’t mind. Here on the Hill, far away from the stushness of Champs Fleurs, I could kick ball all day until I had to heed Mama’s call to come and fill my face.

I give you all those details to emphasize this: my relationship with the Hill is a personal one. I know in my head as well as in my heart what David Rudder means when he says: “He used to use it to pound a pan or sometimes a stupid man.”

I know in my head as well as in my heart what Singing Sandra means when she sings “Voices from the Ghetto” with its “women [who are] stronger than a wall.”

I know in my head as well as in my heart what my brother Jamaal Shabazz means when he talks about the “children of the PNM” who inhabit the Hill.

And that is the reason I feel authorized to affirm that Laventille should be the litmus test for all our politicians, especially the PNM ones. Used and abused by the PNM, steadfastly ignored by the other political parties, the denizens of the Hill have not seen any improvements in their daily lives that are nearly commensurate with our country’s wealth.

Photo: The Laventille hills. (Copyright Power102fm)
Photo: The Laventille hills.
(Copyright Power102fm)

Other than Martin Daly who, as an Independent Senator, can arguably be called a politician, the only politician who I know has ever spoken about improving Laventille and meant it was John Humphrey, with whom I had a private conversation when I was captain of the national football team.

Over and over, we have heard about the music potential of Laventille, about the rich potential Laventille people have in arts and crafts. So why not a UWI campus in Laventille? Why not a tram car or cable car service for the people on the Hill, possibly run and managed by people from the Hill?

Why not a state-of-the-art football stadium on the Hill, perhaps named after favourite son Russell Latapy? Imagine what that would do to a besieged community in terms of opportunities for the fulfillment of latent ambitions.

Listen, we can lament the state of Laventille and its environs all we want, nothing will change there until reparations in the form of serious investment in the Hill are forthcoming.

Because if we were to starve Goodwood Park of economic and social progress, our monied drug lords would be sourcing potential employees from there as well.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago and FC Porto star Russell "Little Magician" Latapy (centre) poses with a fan during the British Airways Tobago Legends Football Challenge community outreach programme at the St Mary's College ground in Serpentine Road, St Clair. (Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)
Photo: Why not a Latapy Stadium in Laventille?                                                      Former Trinidad and Tobago and FC Porto star Russell “Little Magician” Latapy (centre) poses with a fan during the British Airways Tobago Legends Football Challenge.
(Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)

But we can’t blame T&T’s upper class drug lords for Laventille’s dire situation, no more than we can blame the Devil for the presence of evil.

The ones who must shoulder the blame are the elected members of the political class, all those who have been actively complicit in their partnerships with the drug lords, all those with power who have sat and silently acquiesced in the Hill’s steady decline, degeneration into a despised den of unending iniquity.

When we elect political officials, we hope and pray that they will use the available wealth and resources our country has in abundance to improve the daily lives of our citizenry.

Our country has had wealth and resources that far exceed the daily needs of our meagre 1.3 million population. But have our lives improved?

Deserted streets in a deserted community. (Courtesy: Georgia Popplewell)
Deserted streets in a deserted community. (Courtesy: Georgia Popplewell)

The trail of dots to where X marks the spot is clear and has been so for the last 50-plus years. Of course, there are those who will point to running water, electricity, (almost!) free education from womb to tomb and a television set in virtually every house as evidence of improvement. But I ent buying it!

Over 225 and counting murdered… and only half the year done! We wait with Job-like patience for the slaughter to abate, we wait, fearing that in their addled state our political class lacks both the will and the vision to do what is necessary. So I ent buying it!

Unless and until the man or woman with the honestly acquired Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes or beat-up Nissan Sunny can take his or her family into downtown Port of Spain late at night to take a promenade on the Promenade without fear of the consequences, I not buying it!

Unless and until our children, our girls and our women can walk or run up Chancellor Hill without fear of being robbed or, worse, raped, I not buying it!

Unless and until a little boy or girl born in Laventille or behind the bridge has access to the same opportunities as the boy or girl born in Westmoorings or in the Western Peninsula, I simply not buying it!

Unless and until we can stop holding our breaths while we wait for siblings, sons, daughters, wives and husbands to get safely back home, let the political class with all their security details keep that notion of progress and stick it up their craw!

I just not buying it!

Photo: Attorney general Faris Al-Rawi (centre) enjoys himself during the 2016 Carnival celebrations.
Photo: Attorney general Faris Al-Rawi (centre) enjoys himself during the 2016 Carnival celebrations.

Perhaps this is the place to point out that, after my last article specifically mentioned the enormous benefit (in the millions of dollars) he and his wife harvested from renting an unused building to the government under both the current regime and its predecessor, Attorney General Al Rawi has recently been making noises about introducing new legislation to seize unexplained wealth.

Not being a hypocrite myself, I have to say that I sincerely hope the Al Rawis can provide a clear explanation as to why they should be allowed to hold on to wealth acquired as a result of a clear conflict of interest.

Let us not be afraid to face the facts and say how we truly feel. How, for instance, does Eric Williams’ status as “Father of the Nation” square with his actions during and after the 1970 Black Power Revolution?

Why should his infamous “recalcitrant minority” declaration be any less deplored than his unforgettable “One from ten leaves nought”? Is his early alienation of the Indo-Trinbagonian community not arguably the trough at which a “leader” like Sat Maharaj feeds?

Didn’t Basdeo Panday preside over the corruption of Ish, Steve, Brian and the rest, maybe even facilitate it?

It may be true that Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s rise to the leadership of the UNC and then the country represented a breakthrough for women in politics. But did she not put together and give free rein to a Cabinet comprising, inter alia, Jack Warner, Anil Roberts, Herbert Volney and Anand Ramlogan, the needle of all of whose moral compass, one might conclude, steadfastly pointed away from nought?

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and her then Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner at the Trinidad and Tobago 2010 Women's Under-17 World Cup. (Courtesy
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and her then Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner at the Trinidad and Tobago 2010 Women’s Under-17 World Cup.

The recently deceased former prime minister Patrick Manning (condolences to his family) has been credited with so improving the energy sector that billions of dollars were generated for the country thereafter.

But if all that he has left as a legacy is a few high-rise buildings in the capital city and no hard evidence on which to bring Calder Hart to book, can we really with a clear conscience see success in that?

We must not let them get away with their corrupt ways. Let us resolve not to forever hold our peace. And let us resolve, when we do speak up, to put an end to the never-ending hypocrisy.

I know some will be critical of me for a lack of sensitivity and of compassion as far as the dead are concerned. Water off a duck’s back. And if you don’t believe me, here’s the proof. When I die, spare me the crocodile tears and the hypocritical praise; just tell the truth about me, no matter how hurtful it may seem.

I promise I eh go get vex with allyuh!

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About David Nakhid

David Nakhid is the founder and director of the David Nakhid International Football Academy in Beirut, Lebanon and was the first Trinidad and Tobago international to play professionally in Europe. The two-time Caribbean and T&T Player of the Year and cerebral midfielder once represented FC Grasshopper (Switzerland), Waregem (Belgium), POAK (Greece), New England Revolution (US), Al Emirates (UAE) and Al Ansar (Lebanon).

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  1. U not vying for CFU president?

  2. Everytime someone wants to launch a political career they use the community of Laventille as their ladder, ask Isha Wells and others like her Mr David Nakhid needs to take several seats

  3. Blah blah, just drop a bomb and kill everyone in Laventille. Laventille is completely useless towards the economy.

  4. I was born and raised in Laventille up to 18 years of age. I went to South East POS Secondary. I continue to have close friends in Picton Laventille. While Mr Nakhid’s stories are personal to him they seem at best, like those of a young boy that has been romanticised- not linked to the lived reality of people in the area. There is a lot that has been done for the people of Laventille and trying to redesign the landscape was an intention of Mr Manning in direct dialogue with many MPs for the area over many decades. While the physical appearance has not been altered much, the lives of many have been improved through programs available to all citizens and some specific to the residents of Laventille. Moreover housing developments were laid down in the heart of Laventille and Picton over many decades and in my time in Planning Housing and the Environment older developments were demolished and rebuilt better and larger for the residents there. Many chose to leave the area as they advanced in their personal development. Many have stayed. There is a very complex set of issues in the community and the new programs of sitting MPs for the area are working and will work to change the lives of many young and not so young in the Laventille area. There are some people however who do not wish to change. One of the most complex issues in Laventille is the terrain. From a planning perspective many residences would need to be demolished and those areas left under vegetation to halt erosion and stabilize the vicinity. Some communities would need to be redesigned and social amenities built into those new communities. The East POS Co was set up and functions to slowly and professionally plan and effect changes in this entire region. The serious issues of drugs and gangs are another set of complexities requiring another level of interventions. Hence the current programs to provide opportunities for advancement in education directly tailored and taken to the citizens of Laventille hold out the greatest promise for change. Those programs would have been arrived at following decades of continued efforts by the PNM to affect change in the areas. It is not for a lack of trying.

    • “There is a lot that has been done for the people of Laventille and trying to redesign the landscape was an intention of Mr Manning in direct dialogue with many MPs for the area over many decades.”

      “Mr Manning (…) over many decades”? Surely you overstate the case in your zeal to defend the PNM. Mr Manning became PM for the first time in 1991 and left office in May of 2010. Twenty years constitutes “many decades”?

      Spare us. Please.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • Emily, as you know, I too am a proud product of this community and I still go there almost every day. We both attended Eastern Girls Government School. A lot of times the people themselves are afraid of change. When Mr. Manning wanted to restructure East Port of Spain and re-do the living arrangements, I walked the length and breadth of Nelson, George and Duncan Streets along with MP Eric Williams trying to make the residents aware of the plan and to get them to embrace it, as it was for the betterment of the community. The people were afraid to do so at that time and from what i am hearing now, are still afraid to grasp the better living environment that will be put forward to them.

    • My question why lament do something for the community. I know a lady trying to build a netball court. Put your money where your mouth is.

    • Marcus, it is amazing that citizens of a community cannot get together and build a netball court for their children…It is exactly your type of mindset, that have Laventille in it’s present predicament, always waiting on taxpayers money to get basic things done in their community!!! Almost all residential areas in T & T raise funds on an annual basis to upgrade parks and improvement work such as, cleaning and beautifying their communities…SMH.

  5. Hear nuh… Lasana Liburd you read this? Top to bottom?

  6. I want to save the cover photo….but it’s not in the article….sob Lasana

  7. Well here’s what he’s probably done ,not only for every child in Laventille but any similar community….He played on the streets and sandlots of that disadvantaged community,went on to play at St. Mary’s College excelling in football and academics. ..recently selected as one of the best 50 players in College football history…went on to a football scholarship at American University in DC where he again excelled at football and academics, captaining his team all the way to the national championship final while graduating with a double major in international relations and economics. ..inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame…became the first Trinbagonian to play in the European first division,became captain of the national team while winning 2 player of the year award,Caribbean player of the year,MVP of the Caribbean championships…twice…..selected one of the best 100 players in the history of Trinbago football….your question was ?

  8. What did he do for at least one child there? What?

    • David Nakhid, have been living outside for too long! and need to be up dated on Laventille progress that i have observed over the past years… The T & T Government have done a lot in Laventille to benefit not only one child! but, all the children in the area for both Trini born and the outsiders, new and improved water mains were installed with upgraded road networks and installation of increased Electricity to the area, Increased Street Lights to the area, for which a great deal of these households do not pay their utility bills that the Government throw a blind eye to!. Laventille, is not only about delapidated buildings, there are lots of beautiful buildings with the latest furnishings, that can compete with the best in Goodwood Park and other up scale housing areas built with Government materials intended to do drainage works and retaining walls for the area. The Government FREENESS to this area normally take a big chunk of allocated welfare assistance to single mothers in this area, distributed in the form of Food Cards, Government Grants, Book Grants, Housing assistance Grants, Utility Bills assistance for pensioners, Social Welfare and of course CEPEP for all who are interested, some people spend their entire life working CEPEP or URP then their children grow up and then start the cycle all over! tell meh when ah lying!!!…… Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of hard working intelligent people from this area that contribute to Nation Building, but they are in the minority.

    • Megan, he usually does look out for comments. So I am sure he will read.

    • What Jean did there was list the man’s achievements to say “he is an example to you”. Reminds me of OJ Simpson and all the things he saw himself achieving for himself.. I doubt David would be that arrogant..

    • I am going to be lynched for my question?

    • Where’s the lynching? Someone just tried to respond to your comments. That is just an exchange of opinions.

    • Oh! I thought I asked the wrong question.

    • I thought the question was what he did for laventille not what he did for himself

  9. Now you know why THEIFA got rid of this brother early o clock.

  10. The people like how they live and don’t want to grow well Marcus I want to move out right now

  11. he need to specify which government and then there also people in society who want to keep it in that state and make sure that they don t rise to be as successful as them ,…. certain ethnic groups I might add …… history has show us what they did when black people try to elevate themselves and according to Mr. Morvant the people with the money …momomoney

  12. It is what you call an inconvenient truth.

  13. An attempt to do a great article, but you left out a bunch of things Mr.Nakhid, and you cant tell me bout the hills, ah know bout the hammer, ah know bout the thunderbolts, pass and current steel current music makers, a lot of good came out from Laventille, yes! plenty has to be done, but when you are bringing issues to the fore, please speak more on the condition of a people, its a culture that has to be changed!! yes! the politicians have missed the mark, but you have left out some of the main perpitrators, you went light on them, too light, makes me wonder if you are an aspiring politician, Laventille has always been a neglected area, many have tried, but not enough, because the pple have to change their focus, on what is progress and elevation, drugs, easy life, liming on the block, has a short life span, who gives the drugs and the guns, when folks can walk the sts and be at ease as before at any hour, that would be a start. My family has been in there, and they have ALL done well! around the mayhem and degeneration of human lives. A change in the heart condition must come. The stigma that is put on those who came out from there, doing well, our own pple, watch us with contempt, stupid pple do that all the time, Shabazz tried so hard to help with that change. Do you know how many politicians came out of Laventille? Nation builders, Educators, etc, Im done for now. Yes they can do better, but hail out all the opportunists, expose properly, the drugs is a major scourge, Who are the perpitrators?

  14. James Harris proved that anyone can take ownership of their studies and their lives and take advantage of their opportunities and do well. She won the President’s Medal. Everything that Mr Nakhid said may be true but it cannot be left to any government. Positive action is the only thing that will reap the rewards and this must start with the people making their demands be it for agricultural land, industries in their area and opportunities for the youths.

  15. I do recall a former Prime Minister now deceased (Mr. Manning) who had announced plans to develop the Beautiful Laventille Hills with all the necessary infrastructure and the people of the Hills nearly ate him alive! he never returned to the hills after that confrontation with the people who claimed he wanted to ‘sell dem out to the Syrians’ our problem in T & T is that our 9 days memory span is killing our National Progress. Laventille is still one of the best real estate in T & T but no one will touch it with a 10ft pole.

  16. He’s talks a lot about Laventille’s shortcomings and about government neglect of the area. Would have been nice for David to put forth some tangible solutions to fix the current problems. Not sure how placing a stadium and UWI campus in the area and building a tram /cable car would end the cycle of poverty, crime, gang warfare, etc. that has plague many in this part of the country. The one good thing about his story is that it may help to start a discussion about how to end Laventille’s evil cycle. How do we intercede now to change the minds, hearts, and lives of the next generation.

    • That’s easy. End the war on drugs here (see Portugal). (And for the record the campus and the cable car are ok ideas – the author isn’t the minister of *cough* sustainable *cough* planning or anything so I give him license to throw a couple of half baked ideas in… I’m desperate to see some change in the place.

  17. Everyone talks about government neglect of the hill, yet it’s the area with the most schools in the country one of the best secondary school in South East Port of Spain. It’s and area that enough money has been thrown in make work program and education development program. The largest training facilities outside of energy sector exist. One of the oldest Servol centers is located in the area. An when it comes to health centers there are more health centers there than anywhere else. All you who have you ever asked the people on the hill why they want to live their and why they don’t move out. You hear thing about community friends the view it’s close to POS. Not everyone is a bad boy or girl. These negative columnist. I had enough.

  18. If each of us keep speaking out brother Nakhid, maybe most of us one day will awake from our splendid ignorance and say enough is enough. They may have crushed the spirit of many of us in 1970 but not all of us.

  19. he makes /made me want to find him to ask him, what are we going to do about it. the writing is of that depth and stirring. mind you , i have ideas, just never had another soul care enough about that place beyond pose

  20. LOVE this and love this man for writing it. Never met him but i met who i think is his sister in 2003 in Louisiana, both of us at an International Educators’ Conference where I presented a paper. She is in New Zealand I think . This writing enriches my awareness of both of them.

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