An angry and upset looking Minister for Social Development and Housing, Delma Charles-Thomas has dismissed charges from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that political considerations were used in the recent distribution of homes to locals in the Chinese housing project.
Speaking to reporters at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, the female government minister rejected NDC’s contention that mainly supporters of the ruling New National Party (NNP) were allocated houses in order to try and change the political demography in the St. George North-east constituency.
Although the seat was won in the 2013 general elections by the ruling New National Party (NNP), the constituency is considered as a stronghold of Congress.
Congress is said to be concerned that the Keith Mitchell-led NNP outfit might seek to use the houses to bring in an influx of party supporters into the constituency in order to bolster the chances of its candidate.
Last week, 38 families received housing units at Mt Gay, while another 20 units at Frequente were distributed and another 60 persons are expected to move into Mt Gay soon.
According to Minister Thomas, most of the persons who received houses were pre-selected by the former Congress administration of Tillman Thomas.
She said the present committee that was put in place by the two-year
old NNP administration looked at the persons that were short-listed under Congress and once it was determined that a particular name was in need of a house that person was contacted with the good news.
“…Most of the persons who are in Mt Gay and Frequente are persons who were short-listed by the former administration and therefore it would not be correct to say that we are putting NNP supporters and we have some agenda because we are looking at what they have done before and we are following the same (method),” explained Thomas.
Minister Charles-Thomas pointed out that it might have been the NDC Administration of 2008-13 that might have been planning to secure the homes for their own supporters in putting together the list for the distribution of the houses.
“… If you look at the list, it said pre-selected by the former committee and most of these persons are part of the housing project, then one would try to think whether or not that was the intention of the former administration”, she said.
“… Because if all the persons who are going there are persons who you pre-selected before then I would wonder their mindset, their thought process (if it) was really to have a list so that they would be able to win the last election,” she added.
The senior government minister also took a swipe at Congress for not doing what it had to do in order to hand out the Chinese houses while in office to the people in a timely manner.
“These houses were given after Ivan – (it) was given to the Government and people of Grenada. It was negotiated under the now government and the NDC came in and the project started. The government had their responsibilities, the Peoples Republic of China had to build the houses, Government responsibility was to put in the sewage, put in the water and the electricity and the roads but nothing happened after the Chinese government had done their part and those houses were abandoned”, she told reporters.
“… So if you (NDC) were really serious about giving out and distributing those houses for those needy persons who you now talking about, then how come you weren’t even able to strike a negotiation and you wait until another Government come in power to go back to the Chinese and asking for assistance to get those houses on the way so that those needy persons you talking about can access those houses,” she said.
According to Minister Thomas there should be no favouritism in the distribution of the houses but that whoever is in need should get a house.
She said the persons who received houses so far are from St David’s and St George’s.
“…The housing project …while it might be located in maybe North East constituency, one would appreciate the fact that you might find somebody there who is from St David’s, who needed a house and were able to access one there.
“… You would also find somebody from the town of St George, you might also find somebody from even the south, and we only have 20 units there. The majority of persons will be North East St George’s but you will find persons from other parts of the country who are in urgent need of houses being housed at Mt Gay and maybe even Frequente.
The second phase of the Chinese Low-income houses is expected to start later this year with preliminary work due to begin in March.