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‘I want to represent the voice of the people’

Thursday, July 12, 2018
PEP’s Christoph Samlal
PEP’S candidate Christoph Samlal

With three days left before the local government by-elections for Barataria and Belmont East, Guardian Media focuses on two of the candidates vying for votes in Barataria. The series began in the Sunday Guardian and has so far featured the three candidates contesting to fill the position as councillor for Belmont East in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation. Barataria candidates, In our Take 5, tell us why they are the best man or woman for the job.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I am a motivated and energetic 25-year-old resident of San Juan who is passionate about the well-being of residents of Barataria and by extension, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Statistics with the intention of pursuing a career in teaching but my love for photography was so overwhelming that I made the decision to build my photography business first before settling into teaching. The last nine years have been spent building my business while using my knowledge of mathematics in the study centres and after-school programmes to try and help those students that the education system have failed. My involvement in politics began in 2017 when I joined the Progressive Empowerment Party a few months after it was formed and I have been politically active since then.

Why politics? Was it always an area of interest?

Politics was not always an area of interest. Like most of the young people, I was jaded by what passed for politics, as nothing has changed; like politicians lived in another world, out of touch with the people. Being trained to be a critical thinker and to solve issues using logic, I wondered how could politicians see the problems before them and fail to come up with simple, logical solutions. It was only when I stumbled upon a ranting video of Phillip Edward Alexander, did I realise I was not alone in seeing the problems and the lack of solutions by the current government. He even went further to explain why the systems were set up to fail, and why a small minority benefits. I listened and critiqued his every word until I was convinced that the Progressive Empowerment Party had policies that I can agree with. Since then, I’ve dedicated my time and energy to research and discussions as we continue to build the party on a national level.

Recycled politicians. Broken promises. Corruption. These three seem to be the order of the day in T&T politics. Tell us what about the PEP is different and why should it be given a chance?

To start, the Progressive Empowerment Party has a strict no-recycled politician rule. No career politicians who have been groomed to fit into the mould of the already corrupted systems. This is to protect the sanctity of the party. We are quite aware of the broken promises of the previous administrations and we know that most times it’s because those promises were near impossible to achieve, or because they were ill-prepared into making those promises materialise when they were made. The Progressive Empowerment Party has developed national policies and is already in the planning stages of breaking these policies down into short-term goals and drafting legislation around the policies so when we get into government, it is literally just to “press play”. Like myself, most of the party have chosen to sacrifice for the common goal of a better nation, and we all play an active role in building the party, expecting absolutely nothing in return. I know our members personally and none have ever given me the impression that they’re involved for monetary gain. We are united by the ideas of transparency and accountability, ending corruption and serving the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

What do you plan to do for the people of Barataria should you be triumphant in LG elections? What is the prominent need?

Barataria was blessed with sufficient infrastructure over the years but neglect has led to the degradation of roads, signage, sidewalks and drainage. Potholes and degraded signage have led to a high number of accidents as drivers are left to guess who has the right-of-way or are forced to swerve to avoid hitting other vehicles or pedestrians. Another common complaint in the southern part of the district is a large infestation of mosquitoes and sandflies. These spawn from stagnant water and degrading organic matter, again resulting from neglect of drainage and sanitation. Lastly, many of the businesses have complained that they need a greater police presence on the main commercial streets or avenues. Most of them are burdened with the additional overhead cost of having to hire security or off-duty officers for protection and have requested more patrols as well as community policing where they are visible and within reach. I will be their voice and represent their concerns before the council and pressure the SJLRC to meet their needs. The people deserve better.

If you had the opportunity to become a minister, which ministry do you believe you would be better suited?

The Progressive Empowerment Party strongly believes in the separation of ‘Executive’ and ‘Legislative’ powers. I support this belief. I want to represent the voice of the people, either as a councillor or maybe as an MP later on. I believe that the executive powers (Ministries) should be assigned to specialists in that particular field, not to an MP, mainly because MPs are rarely qualified in the field of their ministries and also because the portfolio of an MP is a full-time job that affords no extra time for oversight of ministries.


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