Daly: Greenvale double cross squared; flooding fallout highlights political failure and lack of accountability

EPL Infrafred Sauna

It now seems incontrovertible that Greenvale Park Development, La Horquetta, should not have been built at all. The disastrous flood risk that materialised to the material and psychological damage to the residents—now facing the further risk of flood-borne diseases—was the proverbial disaster waiting to happen.

Several reports in the media have demonstrated the unsuitability of the area for housing. It was specifically attributed to the Minister of Communications that the community was built next to a meandering river intersected by the drainage system for the La Horquetta community.

Photo: Residents move through the Greenvale community by raft.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

This attribution was not in quotation marks so I treat that as a summary of what may have been said at the press conference, which was the subject matter of the report. However, it seems clear from  many other reports of what happened in Greenvale, that the excessive rainfall sprang a recklessly set trap.

Moreover, the politicians on both sides of the PNM/UNC divide took the customary blame game into overdrive, similarly to the ceaseless shouts of “you tief and you tief more”.  That was the clearest confirmation that bad politics and uncaring public administration had been nakedly exposed, at the expense of innocent citizens of course.

Greenvale has been doubled crossed squared. First, the promise of a home with an implied term that it was built in an area reasonably fit and prepared for human habitation, when the area was not. Secondly, two equally sloppy administrations had it built or touted it as fit when it was not.

The Government must now move speedily with the benefit of engineering expertise to devise and install flood defences.

However, as all except the political zealots recognise, there is a bigger and sadder picture before our eyes comprising at least three frames. These are the continuing failure of the planning authorities to regulate building development—the equally regular failure to be prepared generally—and have adequate drainage to meet the inevitable challenge of annual flooding and the farcical practice of politics.

Photo: Prime minister Keith Rowley (centre) arrives at a function in 2018 with his wife, Sharon Rowley.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

It is the failure of the practice of politics that today’s column addresses because the dysfunction in the other frames are the outcome of bad politics.

A subset of the bad politics is the failure of public inquiries to have any productive outcome. Crucial parts of the Westminster system of Government are accountability, legislative and administrative change, driven by independent inquiries whose recommendations are acted upon.

An editorial in the Sunday Express last week, stating the need for a full independent enquiry into the Greenvale disaster, described the heart of the problem as “decisions taken by consecutive Governments regarding the State-constructed housing development in East Trinidad.”

Sadly, I have to point out that the subject matter of a column of mine—published as long ago as April 2002—was entitled Commissions of Futility. In it, I mentioned that little by way of accountability or systematic changes came from the three high profile Commissions of high in the earlier decade.

These futilities were the Scott Drug Report, the Hyatali Enquiry into the death of patients at the St Ann’s Hospital—allegedly after drinking eggnog—and the Seemungal Commission into the overcrowding of the National Stadium for a World Cup qualifying football match between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States on 19 November 1989.

Photo: Former Commissioner of Police Randolph Burroughs was fingered for corruption in the Scott Drug Report.

There is no need to list more recent inconclusive public enquiries of equal or higher profile in order to remind readers that we have changed or fixed very little in response to the death, disasters, suffering and losses inflicted on thousands of  citizens, entitled to be trustful that their institutions will not betray or fail them; and, if they do, persons in authority will lose their jobs.

Sadly, we the citizens have not voted on issues, so we have not extracted the political price that should be paid.

For the two decades that I have identified many State enterprises as the spawn of corruption, I have also advocated that citizens who suffer common neglect should form groups across constituency boundaries to agree on specific steps for redress.  They must then demand that contenders for political office commit to that platform as the price of the group’s votes.

Generalisations about taking hold of our communities are insufficient.

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About Martin Daly

Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  1. The govt acted like it wasn’t the responsibility of the govt of Trinidad and Tobago to fix the matter. They are not the PNM govt, they are the Govt of Trinidad and Tobago

  2. The govt knew what the issues were yet sat and did nothing, then want to start the blame game. Foolishness and reckless behaviour, no accountability and no sense of responsibility

  3. Comment on what? PNM and UNC feed the beast of politican nessicity PNM needed to meet housing monster demands and UNC followed suit. PS some of the residents of Greenvale knew about pond issue as they were from La Horquetta, did they care?

    • So are you trying to tell me that there was no way for proper evaluations to be done and procedures to follow because both party had no choice because of political necessity to meet housing demand? Please fly away with that one

    • How the hell do you blame the residents for paying to live there when it is obvious that they were not involve in the planning and building of such a project!!!!

    • Some of those same residents are original la horquetta residents long before distribution that place used to flood. I too used to want a Greenvale home. When i heard the comments from the famers i said wow such a nice development and its flood prone. And mind you when most of these homes were distributed you had options which area you wanted. Its sad to see the problem of flooding was not fixed.

    • Kelisha David yuh getting ah lil heated. Liselle Thomas yuh on point, Land cost and political patronage trump any logical assessment that brings no return at the ballot box.

  4. Hmmmm No political parrots here to comment on this article and say that these residents should shut up and stop asking for handout?

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