Member of Parliament for North Leeward Roland “Patel” Matthews is blaming the Unity Labour Party government for the deaths of three of his constituents, which occurred when a car plunged over a cliff in Coulls Hill Sunday night.
Matthews, a member of the main opposition New Democratic Party, speaking on the party’s radio programme on Monday, pointed to a post he made on Facebook over a year ago highlighting the fact that the road where the accident occurred needed repair.
He also reminded listeners that he had raised the issue during the Budget Debate earlier this year.
Witnesses say that the car, PT505, went off the road at a section of the Leeward Highway where the retaining wall is damaged.
The car landed on another section of the highway in Troumaca Bottom, hundred of feet below.
George Johnson, 89, Venola Ollivierre (also known as Icylma Johnson), 65, and Denzil Johnson, 22, all of Spring Village died in the incident.
Two other persons, Kemral Williams, 24, said to be the driver of the vehicle, and Neville Charles, 45, have been hospitalised.
It was the second deadly incident in the area in just over a year.
A Vincentian who was visiting from overseas died when the vehicle in which she was travelling plunged over the same cliff.
Matthews quoted his April 9, 2014 post on Facebook in which he said:
“Since the December 2013 floods, the retaining walls at Couls Hill, en route to Tromouca, have been severely compromised. While there might be intention to reroute this road sometime in the future will the government please do some repairs to these walls as they pose a very serious threat to motorist and pedestrians alike? A vehicle has overturned in the said area and one life has been lost. Is the government waiting for another accident to happen before something is done?”
“I am not prophetic but I made that statement on Facebook over a year ago,” he said on the programme, noting that during the Budget Debate he again called for the government to repair the wall.
“Driving on that road on a regular basis, I know the fear that gets into people when they get to that point,” said Matthews, who lives in Petit Bordel, a community further north.
He said the top of the retaining wall in the area where the accident occurred was damaged by a landside during the severe weather of December 2013.
“The only thing that was done, I see they put up a caution tape when the first person died there. No effort was made to do anything to those walls,” he said, adding that he had heard talks about plans to re-route the road.
“… as I said in my post then and I want to repeat it now: Are we going to wait until another tragedy occurs again? I know that people will jump to say that I am being political. Well, I am being political because I am the Member of Parliament for North Leeward and I am making it my business to repeat what I said.
“And I will even go further. I am holding the government of this country responsible for the tragedy, because this road has been in this condition since 2013 during the storm and up to this day, nothing whatsoever has been put in place for people safety,” he said.
Matthews said people complain daily about the road.
“The Prime Minister frequents North Leeward for whatever reason and I am sure when he pass on that road he would see the condition of that place.
“And simply because building a retaining wall does not have any fanfare of opening, it does not have any fanfare when closing, because some person like to use these opportunities for political flamboyancy, for name calling and cuss out. So, because the nature of a retaining wall will not qualify for such political speeches, then I guess that is the reason why nothing was done to safeguard people,” he said.
Matthews said that it is for reasons like this that he says the constituency has been neglected by the government and accuses the government of doing things only for political mileage
“I am shaken up by this thing. I am shaken because as if I saw this danger coming. … I don’t want to sound prophetic, but I saw the day. Anyone who drove on that road will tell you it is one of the most fearsome coming into North Leeward is when they get to that point,” he said.
“… the government of the day is neglecting the constituency and that is a prime example. When you talk, people like to say you are getting too much, and everything is politics. Well this one, I take it personally because it is politics. That is how I put it is because it is a fact.
“You are finding money to do all kinds of seemeedimee (nonsense) things but here is a problem, a safety problem facing you and you are not finding the money or the time to deal with it,” Matthews said.
He said he is aware of the challenges in the constituency.
“I am not visiting North Leeward you know. I did not leave North Leeward, go into Kingstown to live and come back to North Leeward and want to represent you know. I’m North Leeward, I live North Leeward every day. I see, I understand what is taking place because I am living in North Leeward full time,” he said.