LA HORQUETTA/TALPARO ELECTORATE – 27,038 A look at La Horquetta/Talparo Constituency…
GET READY FOR A NEW MP
By PETER GREEN
One thing is certain! There will be a new Member of Parliament for La Horquetta/Talparo after the 2020 General Elections.
Because of the health issues affecting the incumbent, Maxie Cuffie will not be returning to fight for the People’s National Movement (PNM). The ruling party will have to find a new candidate, not only to contest the seat, but to save it from going to the United National Congress (UNC).
Cuffie won the La Horquetta/Talparo seat in the 2015 General Elections with 10,428 votes. He defeated the incumbent, Jairam Seemungal of the UNC who got 7,606.
So who is Maxie Cuffie?
Cuffie started off as a business reporter with the Trinidad Express. After a couple of years he transferred to the Trinidad Guardian as Business Editor. When the Jamaat Al Muslimeen took over Parliament and TTT on the evening of July 27, 1990, Cuffie left his more inexperienced colleagues to roast at the Guardian.
He fled the scene only to resurface when the insurrection was over. In 1996, he was one of the Editors of the Guardian who resigned in the aftermath of a headline, “Chutney Rising”. Then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday complained about the headline and pressure was brought to the newsroom.
There was a walkout headed by then Managing Director Aldwin Chow and including Editors, Jones P. Madeira, Cuffie, Sunity Maharaj, and Pat Ganase. They went on to establish the weekly, the Independent, which didn’t last as long as the Red House fire.
It didn’t take long for Cuffie to join the PNM. He ended up working for then Attorney General, John Jeremie SC. His plans were long term…he wanted to get involved in politics so he put his name forward to be a candidate for La Horquetta/Talparo in the 2007 General Elections.
Cuffie went underground for years
But then Prime Minister Patrick Manning rejected his nomination and this went to Roger Joseph who won the seat.
Cuffie went underground for years until Dr Keith Rowley resurrected him for the 2015 General Elections. Cuffie started out as a former resident of the La Horquetta/Talparo constituency. He won the seat and Rowley named him Minister of Communications.
He started off hosting post Cabinet news briefings but after a few months, Stuart Young took over, even though he was a Minister without Portfolio.
Cuffie fell ill in September 2017 and this required surgery at St Clair Medical Centre. Next thing, the country was told he had to fly out to the United States for treatment. He returned to Trinidad several months later.
Government issued an advisory on the medical bills which they paid for Cuffie.
It cost the taxpayers close to $3 million. Cuffie was first admitted to the St Clair Medical Centre where his medical expenses amounted to $980,263.
To send Cuffie to the United States, the air ambulance incurred a fee of $312,800 and a stroke recovery programme cost the State $1,162,800. There were other undisclosed expenses.
When Cuffie returned to Trinidad and got the all clear to resume duties, Dr Rowley made him Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration. He limps to his constituency office on days when he has to meet with his constituents and when he does, he stays for short periods.
The UNC has unleashed its Deputy Political Leader, Jearlean John
Even Dr Rowley has acknowledged that Cuffie cannot perform strenuous duties and therefore, it is certain that the PNM will put up another candidate later this year. But it won’t be easy.
The UNC has unleashed its Deputy Political Leader, Jearlean John, on that constituency. She has been walking the constituency for months, meeting people, and making in roads. She is a go-getter and who ever the PNM finally chooses, will find it difficult to beat Jearlean should she be the UNC candidate.
The new MP would have to deal with the problems in that constituency – crime, unemployment and lack of proper infrastructure. Gang warfare in La Horquetta has been a real feature. Two weeks ago a man, who lived in Oropune Gardens, Piarco, was shot and killed in Phase I, La Horquetta. Wrong place, wrong time!
People say the gang warfare is between La Horquetta and the Muslims of Carapo. Just drive through La Horquetta, too many youths are idle. People are afraid to venture out at night. Taxi drivers are fearful of going to certain parts of the constituency.
On the other hand, while crime is not really an issue in Talparo, bad roads feature prominently. Rishi Persad remembers in 2010, Jack Warner as Minister of Works coming to Talparo with the MP and ensuring that roads and landslides were repaired. “Where Jack, boy? We need him because we suffering under Cuffie.” The road between Todds Road and Talparo is almost impassable and landslips are commonly seen almost everywhere. One resident who preferred to remain anonymous is quoted as saying, “we have been neglected for four years and soon they will be coming for our votes. Let them come.” In Mundo Nuevo the cry is the same and so too is the cry in nearby Brazil Village. The residents of Greenvale are still angry with the government for housing them in a flood prone area and many of them are vowing never to vote for the PNM again. Several of them are even contemplating court action against the HDC.
Literally, this constituency is in a mess, a far cry from the heady days of former MP Jairam Seemungal. So is it true that PNM General Secretary, Foster Cummings, is being primed for this constituency? Only time will tell!