A look at Port of Spain South…SAD END FOR MARLENE Mc DONALD
By PETER GREEN
What a sad ending for Marlene Mc Donald!
That was the response of several constituents of Port-of-Spain South, the constituency represented by Marlene since 2007.
While some say they are sorry to see what is happening to their MP, there are others who are glad to see her go. They say Marlene was “full of herself and too arrogant’, while others say that part of her constituency was too hot to handle. Not even Christine Lavia, better known as “Twiggy” is hopeful for a return of her MP.
Marlene was a favourite of then Prime Minister Patrick Manning. He gave her the nod to fight Port-of-Spain South – a constituency which includes East Port-of-Spain, Sea Lots and the affluent Woodbrook.
She easily won that seat on November 5, 2007 following which she was appointed Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. She held that position until 2010 when Manning called a snap election and lost to the People’s Partnership.
Many recall that Marlene had thumped her desk when Manning revealed in Parliament that he had fired Dr Keith Rowley from his Cabinet in 2008. But it was also during this time that all of Marlene’s troubles began.
It was during this time that her Ministry gave out questionable scholarship funds to people to study abroad with some of them not even reaching Piarco International Airport.
It was also during this time that decisions taken by Marlene led to numerous investigations which culminated in her arrest in 2019 and which would spell the end of the road for her as a politician.
McDonald, her common-law husband Michael Carew, Wayne Anthony, Victor McEachrane, and Edgar Zephyrine are facing a total of 49 charges over attempting to defraud the Government by allegedly procuring funds for Carew’s Calabar Foundation, under the guise that it was a charity.
McDonald, 61, is facing seven charges, two for conspiracy to defraud, four for misbehaving in public office and one for money laundering.
Zepherine, 75, is the former Chairman of the National Commission for Self Help, while McEachrane and Anthony are contractors.
The offences are alleged to have occurred between 2008 and 2009, but the police investigation only began in 2016.
In 2010, Marlene was chosen again to contest the Port-of-Spain South seat, and while she won, the PNM went into Opposition. She was the Chief Whip, and the man she had jeered, Rowley, became Opposition Leader.
While in Opposition, the Integrity Commission was called upon to investigate Marlene with respect to the Calabar Foundation. With a cloud hanging over her head, she was again chosen to contest the Port-of-Spain South seat in the 2015 General Elections.
This time, the PNM won and formed the Government. She was appointed Minister of Housing and Urban Development, a position she held until March 16, 2016, when she was fired during the Integrity Commission probe.
But three months later, she was appointed Minister of Public Utilities on July 2, 2016. But that appointment lasted two days.
When she went to President’s House for her swearing-in, Marlene was accompanied by Cedric “Burkie” Burke who was in 2011 arrested and charged under the anti-gang law during the State of Emergency that was declared by the PP government.
It was later reported that Burke, a self-proclaimed community leader, was not invited to the event. He told media that he had appeared to show support to the Port-of-Spain South MP. However, speaking with media immediately after she was sworn in, McDonald said she had invited Burke as he represented the best that East Port-of-Spain had to offer.
Marlene rode her luck again as she was brought back as Minister in the Ministry of Public Administration and later as the full Minister in that Ministry, a position she held until August 11 this year.
But today many constituents are asking what has Marlene done for the people of Port-of-Spain South.
They say that she was never seen around Woodbrook. Residents of Woodbrook have been complaining to the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and Marlene about the influx of businesses in that area, but everything fell on deaf ears.
Reports of murder, burglaries, thefts, and robberies surfaced. Questionable characters invaded the space and too many bars remained open in the wee hours of the morning. Vehicles blocked driveways and the drivers were very abusive to the homeowners who were constantly being inconvenienced.
Ariapita Avenue became a night strip for questionable characters.
What about Sea Lots where Marlene was popular because of Burkie? When three persons died in an accident on the Beetham Highway in 2013, it took Jack Warner as Minister of National Security to go there and calm the residents. Marlene could not do it. They were so incensed. Through Warner, improvements were made to the area and that is how the protests ended.
A walkover, first raised by Warner, was eventually constructed in 2018 in front of the Central Market, but residents do not use it.
East Port-of-Spain remains an eyesore. Marlene’s constituency office is situated on Piccadilly Street and it appears to be permanently closed.
Other residents do not want to openly speak about Marlene. But they insisted that whoever the PNM puts up in 2020, they will support that candidate.
When asked what has Marlene done for them over the last 12 years, one man, Winston Walker responded, “it does not matter”.
While poverty and suffering remain a sore point and many still have outdoor latrines, the constituents prefer those failings than anything the UNC has to offer, One constituent who prefers to remain anonymous said, “this was the first and only constituency of Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams and for that it must always remain PNM.”