A look at the Point Fortin Constituency…IS THIS THE END OF EDMUND DILLION?
He may have been a good soldier, highly-decorated with great achievements. But one thing he is not good at and that is being a politician. In fact, since the days when Col Joe Theodore was Minister of National Security, to Brigadier John Sandy to Brigadier Carl Alfonso it has been shown that it is a myth to believe that because one has been a good soldier automatically one can be a good Minister. Even Brigadier Ancil Antoine the present Member of Parliament for D’Abadie/Omeara who was Minister of Public Utilities in Rowley’s government, proved very early in his term of office that politics is not for him and was removed as Minister. He was even verbally abused in the House by Minister Terrence Deyalsingh a few months ago.
“So, who tell Edmund to go into politics?’ was a question posed to Sunshine Today from one of his good friends known as “Batch” when we revisited Point Fortin a few weeks ago.
Dillon was a career soldier who moved through the ranks to become Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and assumed the title, Major General. But according to “Batch”, Dillon spent most of his early days in the Regiment studying and improving himself. Eventually, Dillon reached where the air is rare and got the top post.
But during his stint as CDS came the news that a group of Special Forces soldiers was involved in kidnapping for ransom. Right under his nose, rich people were being kidnapped by a group of specially-trained soldiers who collected millions in ransom.
The kidnappings came to a screeching halt in 2006 when the remains of United States citizen, Balram “Balo” Maharaj were dug up from a shallow grave in Santa Cruz on January 8th, 2006. The discovery of the remains led to the arrest of four soldiers under Dillon together with nine civilians. They were all extradited to the US to face trial. Five turned witnesses for the US Government and eight were convicted for the death of Maharaj.
Dillon retired as Chief of Defence Staff in 2010 and took up an appointment as Director, Corporate Security at Atlantic LNG. The political bug bit him and he put himself up to be a candidate for the PNM for the Point Fortin constituency in the 2015 General Elections.
He got the nod from Dr. Keith Rowley and Dillon contested. He won the seat with 10,813 votes, defeating Ravi Ratiram of the UNC who got 7,070 votes.
The PNM won the elections and Dillon was made Minister of National Security. But Dillon was not able to make a dent on crime. While the citizens were calling for his head, Dillon remained unperturbed.
But out of the blue, Dillon ran into problems in 2017….not in Trinidad & Tobago but quite in the US.
According to court papers filed in the New York District Court, Dillon was accused of being involved in the falsification of documents in the transfer of a New York condominium and the unauthorized withdrawal of cash from Neville Piper’s accounts. Piper was described as an incapacitated person.
A New York City court evaluator noted that “Neville Piper did not have any recollection of having given an interest in his apartment to Mr Dillon. He seemed surprised that one would think he would do such a thing.”
Subpoenaed documents from Citibank also showed that at least one cheque valued at US$5,000 was issued to Dillon on November 11, 2017. However, the court documents say Dillon was not authorized to do any transactions on Piper’s behalf.
In response, Dillon said he accepted the condominium as a gift from Piper, his friend of over 45 years, and that this was done in the presence of “well-established” attorneys and witnesses.
When the case ended on April 4, 2018, Dillon transferred the apartment back to Piper. There were calls at the time for Dillon’s head, but Rowley did nothing.
Four months later, Rowley removed Dillon from National Security and posted him to the Ministry of Housing. Stuart Young became Minister of National Security. Word on the ground was that the incoming Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, was too fast-paced for Dillon and moreover since Dillon was of a higher rank in the Defence Force than Gary who had retired as a Captain, Gary would have a serious difficulty working with Dillon. So, Rowley had to get someone at the same pace as Griffith to be Minister of National Security and Rowley chose his blue-eyed boy Stuart Young.
Dillon has already indicated his intention to seek another term as the MP for Point Fortin. But how did he fare over the last four and a half years? He lives in Federation Park, and with his duties as a Minister, his constituents do not see him regularly and they complain bitterly.
One constituent said Dillon has been visiting Point Fortin a lot these days. This, he put to election coming and that Dillon wants to retain his voter base.
Dillon serves a big constituency where hundreds of Venezuelans have entered the country illegally in the past two years although there is an Immigration Port in Cedros.
Very little has been done in the constituency, infrastructure wise. The Point Fortin Fire Station is a disgrace and many even say that it is a fire hazard. The grounds and premises of Clifton Beach which were once a beauty to behold are no more and with the closure of the Trintopec oil company only some rusty oil tanks and a dilipidated office building tell the story of the rise and fall of Point Fortin. Though Point Fortin has been a PNM safe seat for decades, the Point Fortin Administrative Building is an embarrassment and the once-mighty Point Fortin Civic Centre which was the home of various sports and especially the cradle for youth football is now only a memory. New traffic regulations in the Borough have only made the traffic situation worse especially on Saturdays and many businesses have been closed due to it as well as due to a general decline in business.
Unemployment is at its highest in Point Fortin and the delayed Point Fortin hospital and the much-delayed highway to Point Fortin have only exacerbated the situation. The schools in Point Fortin are all in a sad state and many parents are highly critical of both the quality of education and the poor discipline in the schools. Many of these problems Dillon inherited but constituents say that they have become worse under him. Dillon’s claim to fame is a promised sports facility at Guapo but the field is covered with grass and not even a brick has been laid on the project which started some two years ago. Murder and crime are low in this part of the country. Dillon gave out keys to some UNC houses a few months ago but still many feel Dillon could have done more and when one looks at the phenomenal rise of the UNCs Siparia and Oropouche, adjoining constituencies of Point Fortin, it tells a true picture of how the PNM really does not take care of its own!
And yet Dillon wants to go up for Point Fortin again for the 2020 General Elections. Will he be given the nod for the PNM or will there be another candidate for Point Fortin, a constituency that has experienced the worst form of PNM neglect over the years? Only time will tell!