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Fitz Hughes resident Florestine Spring, whose house was destroyed in the Christmas Eve floods, was not among the 12 families that the government gave houses in the North Leeward village earlier this month.
“Water came from the river and washed away everything. We [were] the first persons [to] reach up by the [emergency] shelter. … I need back a house,” the 39-year-old mother of … told I-Witness News.
For the past four months, Florestine and her family have been living in a building that once housed a village shop.
“Me nah ha’ no light (electricity) there; no water. Me have to come down here and get water and buy candle ah shop,” she said of the building that is “home” to she and her children, one of whom is a student at the Petit Bordel Secondary School.
Spring was living in a wooden two-bedroom house near to a river. The house was washed away by floodwaters.
Spring told I-Witness News that the relevant state department knows of her situation.
She said that after the flood, officials from the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) visited and said that she has to relocate.
“They know. And up to now [I have not received any assistance],” she said, adding that she received another visit from a NEMO official last Tuesday, when Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland Patel Matthews, highlighted her case on radio.
Matthews, an opposition lawmaker, said on his weekly radio appearance that Spring is being victimised because she is a supporter of the New Democratic Party.
“The only indication to us and to the people of Fitz Hughes as to why Miss Florestine Spring did not get a house, is because she is a known New Democratic Party supporter,” Matthews said.
He noted that storms do not affect people based on their politics, and that donors do not contribute so that supporters of a particular party can be assisted.
“When donor agencies make contributions to the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to assist persons who were affected, they did not say, ‘Alright we will fix up those who are ULP, we will fix up those who are NDP who we feel we can turn around, and leave those who are NDP who you think you can’t get. The funds came to assist the people who were affected,” Matthews said.
The MP said he is not opposed to the government building houses for deserving persons who were not affected by the December floods.
“But when persons who were affected, who lost a house did not get reinstated, or did not get indemnified, that, to me, is blatant political victimisation of the highest order,” Matthews said.
Among the persons who received a house in Fitz Hughes from the government was 21-year-old Chateubelair resident, Sweet-I Robertson, who is paralysed after being hit in the neck by a stray bullet in October 2010.
But Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has suggested that while assessors may have missed some storm victims, opposition politics also resulted in some deserving persons not receiving homes.
“In any number of persons whom you dealing with, you will have the odd persons here or there whom the assessors would have missed, for one reason or the other,” he told I-Witness News on Thursday.
“And I will tell you this, you have a handful of persons who would have simply told the assessors, ‘We don’t want you to help with anything’,” he further said.
“Some of them for whatever reason, maybe even including political, because they would have listened to people from the opposition,” Gonsalves said, adding that when those persons realised that the government was serious about rebuilding houses, they have come forward and they are being captured, in the rebuilding effort.
The Prime Minister said that when the houses were handed over in Fitz Hughes on June 6, three persons came to him and said they had suffered damage.
When asked why they had not gone to NEMO, the persons gave various excuses, Gonsalves said.
“But, in those cases, we have to do the assessment, because some persons may say that they were damaged during the storm, when, upon an inquiry, they were not necessarily damaged during the storm.
“That doesn’t mean that they don’t need assistance from the state with their houses, but, not through this programme,” Gonsalves of the EC$20 million housing project currently underway.
“This programme is specifically for those affected by the storm. And there are other programmes to assist other people with housing concerns, either through social development ministry or the programme at the Housing and Land Development Corporation,” Gonsalves further told I-Witness News.
Gonsalves said that 100 houses will be given to storm victims by the end of July, and about 150 will be built overall.
He had said in the wake of the storm that his government would replace even a “fowl cock” (rooster) lost in the Christmas Eve disaster.
A low-level trough system on Christmas Eve resulted in hundred of millimetres of rain within four hours.
The rainfall triggered flash floods and landslides across the country.
In addition to hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed, nine persons died, three are missing, and there was extensive damage to infrastructure, agriculture and forestry.