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Anthony Watkins

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Through the course of its investigations in East Port-of-Spain communities, the Community Recovery Committee has identified employment as an issue for residents.

This is why its chairman Anthony Watkins believes the government’s plan to revitalise the city could be an opportunity to extend this assistance to the residents and by extension, help uplift the communities in the short term.

“If we think about the port of Port-of-Spain, long before containerisation, the manpower and the muscle from the longshoremen and the stevedores who unloaded ships that came into the port… came from Laventille. The majority of the muscle came from there,” he said in an interview with Guardian Media.

“If that kind of development is taking place (the revitalization project) next door, there are massive opportunities for employment and skill-building.”

Watkins said the committee was in the position of creating a position paper to suggest that this be done.

“If this thing is happening why shouldn’t some of our training agencies, the YTEPPs and MICs – why shouldn’t they be mandated to engage with the contractors so that these projects become in the first place, placement of people who are skilled but also apprenticeship and practical zones for people who are in the process of being trained,” he said.

He said the development of the capital would also have a domino effect on the marginalised communities on its outskirts.

“When places in cities begin to decay, the decay spreads. When things begin to grow again, you have redevelopment and urbanisation, that redevelopment also spreads. So I see it as some positive things.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley established the committee on July 3 in response to days of fiery protest in the nation’s capital. The protests were sparked by police killings on June 27 in Morvant. The protesters called for justice for the men killed.

Since its inception, the committee has been on the ground in the communities speaking to residents and other stakeholders, though admittedly, Watkins said, it was in small groups due to COVID-19 restrictions.

He said they’re in the process of establishing a baseline assessment of the communities so their progress can be tracked.

But their work is far from over and Watkins assures he and his team are committed to the task.