IT IS difficult, really, to sympathise with the residents of St. Clair.
To argue, as they are doing, that the mini-stadium must not be sited at the King George V Park because it will lower the value of their properties is to betray a selfishness that has led to the existence of a state of war between them and the less privileged.
Moreover, to claim, as they insist on doing, that the comforts of their nights will be disturbed on those occasions when there is activity at the Park, is to willfully project a picture of unruly crowds coming from behind the bridge desecrating the sanctity of the area.
It is this kind of snobbery that give ammunition to those who would divide the crisis in the country into black and white, creating an atmosphere of hat that me yet plunge the country into negative and futile violence.
Further, by thus tainting their argument, the residents of St. Clair have opened themselves up for blows in the emotional outburst that has followed and it is, perhaps, ironical that it is the very policies of the Government that they have been championing in other areas that have made them the sitting ducks that they now are.
For the truth is, it is not a question of whether or not the residents of St. Clair deserve our sympathy. It is a question of whether King George V Park is the best site for the stadium or indeed whether now is the time to put up a stadium.
The answer to both questions is no. Before going further it will, perhaps be illustrative to look at the question from the other side of the tracks — in this case from Laventille and the proposed complex on the Beetham Highway.
Some time ago, Success Village's Vigilantes managed to sell SERVOL the idea that Laventille needed some place for the people to meet and play. SERVOL took the ball and went running. In the process, however, the Vigilantes began to feel that they were being left out with the result that three weeks ago talk of a Laventille boycott of the project began.
It will be very difficult for the Vigilantes to organise a boycott of the project since the resident have no idea of what project SERVOL, the Vigilantes or the Government is talking about. Out of the blue came the announcement that the grandiose complex was going to be set up.
Success Village could not be more unconcerned. Nobody had bothered to ask them what sort of place they wanted, how they wanted it run, or what personnel they wanted to run it.
And whenever this writer broached the subject he was met by a question: whether the levelling off of the land area next to the Community Centre in Angostura Street would have to wait until whenever the project was completed.
The point was that the youths in the area were quite prepared for the time being merely to have a level, grassed field, with adjoining netball and basketball courts on which to play and they interpreted the complex proposal as another delaying tactic, designed to bring to an unsatisfactory halt the fight for a playing field that they had been waging for at least the last 15 years.
Like the resident of St. Clair, the people of Laventille can claim there has been no consultation. And in the same way that the youth of Laventille are concerned with the proposed playing field ("how old I'll be by the time they finish this complex") the youth of the country may well ask: how is a stadium to make up for the playing fields that we don't have.
All across this nation, there are young people making do with roads and uneven, dangerous pieces of land, the skills are there but the absence of proper playing surfaces means that sport in the communities is suffering.
Hardly a month passes without somebody bemoaning the decline of the country's sports — in the hustle of living in Trinidad and Tobago, today, the supermen are harder to come by but Government, with its eyes on international competition appoints a committee to see after the mini-stadium and puts one of the party-boys in charge.
Once again the back-to-front charade begins. For, surely, we should bow be engaged in the task of providing proper resources internally and then, when we have exhausted those resources, then and only then dare we challenge the world.
Surely the way to approach the question of any kind of a stadium at all is to ask whether it will improve sport HERE. Since the answer to the question must be no (a stadium is not a magic wand), the answer to the problem of improving sport in the country must lie elsewhere — among the barebacked footballers, basketballers and the like daily jumping around trash cans and skipping across canals in an effort to find an outlet for the sport that is in them.
That is why it is not the residents of St. Clair who should be protesting the setting up of a mini-stadium but every sport-minded person in the country who is concerned with sport in the nation and not with any public-relation exercise aimed at proving that we, too, can have a stadium.
Of course, even when we reach the point where we can tell ourselves that a stadium is justified, the last place we will think of putting it is in Port of Spain.
Already Port of Spain is an overcrowded city. And rather then embark on a programme of freeing space the Government is opting for further walling-up of yet another area and to solve the problem of parking there is this lunacy of laying down a car park in the Queen's Park Savannah.
Why must we always give in to this Port of Spain straight-jacket? The people who contribute to sport in the country come from outside Port of Spain — from East, Central and South Trinidad — look at the sports-men who have to scrounge for passageto come to the city to practise and to play.
But the whole stadium exercise is illustrative. At one time the Prime Minister was calling for consultation on a national stadium, at another he decided that we could not afford a stadium. In-between land for it was pin-pointed in Mucurapo; and now finally, we find that we are neither having a stadium nor not having one. Instead, we shall have a mini-stadium next to the Queen's Park Oval which, if we were to insist on this madness of having a stadium in Port of Spain, has all the makings of a stadium already.
Improvisation with no serious back-room and background planning all the time. Throw up structures and people bong to feel yuh doing thing. At one time, perhaps, not again. The rumble of discontented sports-men will continue to be heard whether or not Government goes ahead with this project.
The world will continue to cut our arse until we decide that we must play for ourselves and not to win the gushings of the international Press or the envy of our Caribbean neighbors.