Remarks by the Honourable Pennelope Beckles Minister of Planning and Development At The Commissioning Ceremony for FIRST PEOPLES’ BOOSTER STATION

Photo: Minister of Public Utilities, the Hon. Marvin Gonzales and Minister of Planning & Development, the Hon. Pennelope Beckles at the Santa Rosa First Peoples' Booster Station along the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road. 


Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

Good morning and boundless blessings for 2023 to you all.


I am honoured for this opportunity to greet and share some thoughts with you on such an auspicious day for the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community of Trinidad and Tobago.


Today, we are gathered to bear witness to a significant milestone event, which is part of a grand arrangement that brings together a mutual dream on the part of the Government, the national community at large, and more specifically, our indigenous groups, to bring amelioration to the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago.


Arima is the home constituency of our First Peoples, the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, which occupies twenty-five acres of leased State land on which we now stand, along the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road. It has long been a dream of our indigenous people to establish on this land, a traditional village and living museum, as well as undertake the cultivation of traditional plants and crops. It gladdens my heart, and I am sure it does the same for the hearts of Chief Hernandez and all of us present today, to be making progress and getting ever closer to making this dream a manifest reality.


I am saying all of this as a precursor to heaping congratulations on Chief Hernandez and the First Peoples Community, as well as upon my colleague, the Honourable Marvin Gonzales and his team at the Ministry of Public Utilities, who have made pipe-borne water a reality for the first time at this site. This is evidence of the benefits of the Water and Sewerage Authority’s Community Water Improvement Programme in action, and I reiterate kudos to Minister Gonzales, the Ministry of Public Utilities and WASA.


But this is not all. There are brighter days and nights ahead for our First Peoples, as the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission, T&TEC, will also commission electricity to this area. This, ladies and gentlemen, is also the work of the Ministry of Public Utilities and Minister Gonzales, as a follow up to lengthy discussions and collaboration with me on how we can make this work. I now say to Minister Gonzales, we have made it come to fruition.


To the First Peoples Community, your passion and pride are a shining example of what we can accomplish when we care for our society. I do not have to tell you to maintain your vision and focus; you have been an exemplar in this regard, and the Government is here with you all the way. As the Parliamentary Representative for this area, I will continue to action my support for your community and all other communities within this constituency.


This morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am also here wearing another hat. As Minister of Planning and Development, one of my duties is to ensure that sustainability is a key element of all that we do. What this means to me, is ensuring that everything put in place today is not for today alone, but for future generations to not only enjoy and benefit from, but to advance and make better.


Keeping this in mind, we are also focusing on climate change mitigation and renewable energy use with a plan to include solar powered lighting at this site. There is also the possibility of incorporating digital technology through the Arima Connected project, which when realised, will cater for wireless fidelity access to do even more things as part of the living museum. The possibility of telling the story of our First Peoples, sharing your experiences and culture can be made even more real through Virtual Reality and other technology. This is something more to dream into existence.


The contributions of our Indigenous peoples to the culture, heritage and economic development of Trinidad and Tobago cannot be overstated. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, considers our indigenous groups to be significant owners and users of land and resources. Your traditional knowledge is engrained with your strong connections to land and nature.


The OECD further adds that Indigenous peoples are responsible for taking action to improve natural resources management, develop innovations in food production and harvesting, and own competitive businesses in areas such as mining, tourism, and arts and creative industries in many countries across the world.


Beyond these many achievements and contributions, you have been part of significant contributions to not only Trinidad and Tobago, but also to the world’s cultural and linguistic diversity. Just look at the name of this constituency, Arima, and the names of many other places in our nation.


Your contributions make Indigenous communities key players in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from partnerships for the goals, which we are celebrating here today, to environmental stewardship and management. Your philosophies and actions are valid and honourable.


The Ministry of Planning and Development takes our partnership seriously, and through the Town and Country Planning Division, we are giving support and guidance regarding the process of attaining the required planning approvals to support a feasibility assessment, a Certificate of Environmental Clearance and the required developmental proposals. Through the Ministry’s Planning Division, we are also closely advising on the proper measures to attain the necessary funding through the Public Sector Investment Programme under the auspices of the Ministry of Sport and Community Development.


Our goal is to support the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community to get this right, keeping in mind the environmental, social and cultural benefits, as well as the historical value of such a project. We are also ensuring that Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy’s theme and goal of ‘Putting People First: Nurturing our Greatest Asset’ is also realised, and we hope this will be a beacon for other communities to dream for better, and to put in the work to make it a reality. With this approach, we will continue to overcome the everyday challenges we face together, and achieve our vision for continued progress and prosperity in Trinidad and Tobago.


I thank you all for your time this morning and I once again salute the agencies involved in bringing us to this juncture.