Every other morning for the past couple weeks, I’ve received calls from friends in La Brea about what is happening down there. You would never be able to tell by watching the nightly news broadcasts, but hundreds of residents in that part of the country have been engaged in daily protests against Alutrint, the government owned aluminum smelter plant that they have recently begun construction of.
This morning things came to a head. My sistren called me to say that a police officer had just fired a shot, in the midst of women and children in Union Village. He had to be quickly escorted out of the community, as this angered many of the residents who have been engaging in various non-violent protests since 800 acres of land were first cleared from around their village five years ago.
Tomorrow morning Prime Minister Patrick Manning is carded to turn the sod for the Alutrint power station. Word is that attempts will be made to stamp out any sign of protest, from destroying their camp to arresting anyone seen to be making the Prime Minister look bad. La Brea is a PNM stronghold, which is why the initial resistance to the smelter was able to be overshadowed by what seemed to be overwhelming support from the community. But the promises of jobs have turned out to be, well, not exactly true and now even the people pro-smelter people are taking to the streets.
The following statement is from those members of the communities who are standing firm against the building of the Alutrint smelter.
JUNE 9, 2009
FROM ORGANISED CITIZENS OF SOBO, UNION, VANCE RIVER, VESSIGNY, AND SQUARE DEAL VILLAGES
We understand Mr. Manning is planning to come La Brea tomorrow to turn the sod for Alutrint’s power plant.
Protests involving the villages of Sobo, Vance River, Vessigny, and Union are growing. The citizens involved are against the building of the Alutrint Smelter. We now have the information that Alutrint has been hiding since February 2008 on the health risks of the smelter and the facts on such things as the loss of our beach that has been hidden from us since 2005.
Please note protests that started about two weeks ago were for jobs and fair relocation practices. However, our protest is by villagers being left to live near this smelter and we do not want it! The residents scheduled for relocation and the residents being left behind are standing together.
Those who want jobs in Alutrint have a separate platform. However, we sympathise with them as we have all been fooled that there would be safe jobs for our people. Instead we have hundreds of Chinese roaming about our backyards.
The representatives on many village councils and in the Parliament are representing Alutrint not us. They are trying to shove the smelter down our throat to silence us. This is why we are in the streets, we are representing ourselves.
Today the police discharged a firearm in the air in the midst of children in Union Village. Our protest is non-violent. We will not back down.
The State wants the people of Trinidad to believe that only a handful of residents of La Brea do not want the smelter. This is not true. For example, last week when C-news came to do a feature on La Brea they were only taken to La Brea Village where some persons told them they want the smelter. We waited for them but they never came to our villages. Please note the La Brea area consists of many villages. It is the some 4000 plus residents of Sobo, Vance River, Union, and Vessigny villages that have to be tested every two years for cancer. The residents of La Brea Village do not have to be tested. They cannot speak for us! We speak for ourselves. We do not accept this hurtful smelter.
The State is trying to create the impression that all is well and that the smelter is moving ahead at pace and is unstoppable. They want the people of Trinidad to believe we cannot stop it. This is not true. There is no plant on the ground yet. No plant will go on that ground.
We are calling on right minded citizens of Trinidad to support our call for justice and fairness. This is not just about the environment. We will continue our non-violent protests tomorrow and as long as it takes to safeguard our health and community.