PORT OF SPAIN – Hurt by an accusation that he and his family stole relief items from the Munroe Road Hindu School, which was being used as a flood shelter over the weekend, pensioner Pooran Samaroo lashed out at Chaguanas West Member of Parliament Ganga Singh yesterday.
On Tuesday, Samaroo, 66, spoke to Guardian Media on the condition of anonymity about being thrown out of the shelter by Singh on Monday.
Yesterday, however, he said he wanted the country to know that Singh had made up stories about those who complained of being treated unfairly at the shelter.
Samaroo’s was one of several families who complained to Guardian Media that Singh had thrown them out of the shelter on Monday, although they complained their homes at Ramlal Trace, off Bejucal Road, Cunupia, were still uninhabitable.
In response, Singh claimed those complaining were cases of more greed than need and accused them of stealing items from the shelter. He said none of the families told him they couldn’t go back to their homes.
Yesterday, Singh said he felt had to defend his name, although he was not initially named in the original story to protect his identity.
“I feel real bad hearing him say that . . . he is not a good person. Last week I was 66 years old and he saying I thiefing things? He mad, I worked at Carib Brewery for 32 years, if I had another choice I would have never gone to that shelter,” an emotional Samaroo said.
Samaroo said he told Singh he couldn’t take his family back into his house on Monday but Singh was unconcerned.
“He didn’t see how much water was inside we houses? It seems like he wanted us to go down on our knees to beg him to stay. We told them the houses were stink with flood water and he said we had to leave.”
Before the interview was over, Samaroo’s phone rang. After his conversation, the father of five said he could finally breathe a sigh of relief as his former employer, Carib Brewery, had reached out to him offering to help replace the damaged furniture and appliances in his home.
His neighbour Antoinette Jaikaran, 58, who also spoke about the way she was treated in the shelter, also sought to defend herself.
“I have never been a thief, there was nothing there for us to thief. I don’t know what Singh trying to accomplish,” Jaikaran said.
She said after seeing Singh’s response, she felt ill.
“That is the kind of thing that gets you sick, after everything else he do us he coming now to say we thief?”
Another villager, who asked not to be identified, said he and his ailing wife were also kicked out of the shelter on Monday.
“He said we couldn’t stay, we had to leave so we did,” the 72-year-old man said.
Asked whether he saw any of his neighbours stealing from the shelter as Singh claimed, the man replied, “I could never believe that . . . but what would they steal? Where would they carry it? If he (Singh) said that, . . . how you could tell people who under so much stress that they are thiefing?”
The man said although he has always supported the United National Congress (UNC), the party that Singh repsents, he was very upset at the way Singh treated them in their time of need.
“He came up there like a big boss, always on his phone ordering people around . . . I don’t know what he was trying to show people with that Raja-attitude . . . . I am a born UNC and I can tell you if you check his record in UNC, he hasn’t done anything for anybody.”
In a press release yesterday, however, Viah Collins, coordinator for flood relief in the Chaguanas West Constituenticy, said Singh’s office had noted “with concern the Guardian’s article trying to discredit the work that had been done to assist flood victims”.
Collins said, “While it quotes one family of the hundreds who benefitted from our flood relief efforts, we note that the newspaper report says ‘several families’. Times like this call for more sensitive reporting. We understand that behind the negative press is a deliberate effort to discredit our work and our MP from one person with political ambitions claiming to represent one of the state agencies and feeding on the gullibility of a small number of residents.”