Clint Chan Tack
JUDY Sookdeo, 52, is fearless as she seeks to win the traditional UNC-stronghold of Debe South for the PNM in the February 7 by-election for that district.
The Prime Minister advised President Paula-Mae Weekes of the by-election date on January 3. The Debe South seat became vacant after the death of UNC councillor Purushottam Singh on February 14, 2021. The district falls under the jurisdiction of the UNC-controlled Penal/Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC). There are 12 polling stations in the district.
Sookdeo will challenge the UNC’s Khemraj Sunil Seecharan and the Progressive Empowerment Party’s (PEP) Lorenzo Sammy. The trio filed their nomination papers at the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s returning office at the Shoppes of Debe compound in Debe on January 17.
While Debe South has long been regarded as a UNC political fortress and falls under a corporation that is controlled by the UNC, Sookdeo is not fazed by the challenge she is facing as she makes her debut in electoral politics.
“Debe South is not a traditional PNM seat but I believe nothing is impossible as I seek to appeal to the right-thinking people of Debe South.”
“I am campaigning on a platform of a strong plan as well as my ability to represent effectively.” Sookdeo is proud to be part of the PNM and its tradition of fielding candidates in every election in Trinidad and Tobago since the party was formed in 1956.
“The people of Debe South have an opportunity to vote for quality representation. Regardless of the odds, one voice can be very significant. One person can make a difference and an impact. I intend to be a fierce advocate for those I represent.” Sookdeo believes that being the sole PNM representative in the corporation will bring a fresh perspective to governance, that is based on solid plans and policies.
“I am also solution-oriented and can work with anyone once it results in the job being done for the people I represent.” Politics was something that has always interested Sookdeo and it flowed naturally with her passion for community work.
“As a representative, I will have the ability to continue this work and play an active and real role doing further work to assist the people in my region.”
A single mother with two children, Sookdeo has lived in both Debe South and Debe North at different times in her life.
“I also commute in this area, I recreate in this area, I have friends and family that live here, I shop here and this is literally where I spend most of my time. I understand this community and the people of this area intimately.”
“My main priority is being a good parent and strong role model. These are responsibilities I take very seriously.”
Sookdeo’s long-standing beliefs in education and development have fuelled her aspiration to work with children. “This is shown by my own educational pursuits and achievements. I bring maturity, experience and a strong sense of community activism to the table as I am genuinely interested in seeing this area and its people develop.”
Communication is both an important part of her campaign and what she hopes to bring to the people of Debe South as their councillor. A business supervisor by profession, Sookdeo said, “I have recently unlocked one of my hidden talents as a radio broadcaster.”
She has a master’s of science degree from Heriot Watt University and has done studies in law.
“Education is very important to me as it paves the road to success.”
Sookdeo is familiar with the complaints of people being unable to get in touch with their elected representatives to get their concerns addressed. “I intend to be a representative who is not only present in my district but also accessible. In this age of technology, it is easy to be alerted to the needs of residents by the mere touch of a button.”
Apart from traditional methods of being a representative such as office hours and regular meetings, Sookdeo said the use of technology will allow her to be in contact with burgesses in real-time so she can properly represent them.
What does she see as the pressing concerns for the people of Debe South?
“Infrastructure is one of the pressing issues, particularly roads and drainage. The PDRC has responsibility for a significant amount of roads in the area and does get an allocation for this.” She promised to ensure that Debe South gets “its just share to allow for road repairs to be conducted.”
“Where other agencies are required, I will do the same.”
She also intends to address flooding issues in the district. This is something Sookdeo said the PDRC has the power to address some elements of drainage works in areas under its remit.
“I intend to represent well to ensure that the drainage infrastructure works are undertaken.” She saw unplanned and unregulated development in Debe South being a major cause of flooding in the area.
“Oftentimes, we see developers blocking, narrowing and altering watercourses without authorisation or the necessary approvals.”
Sookdeo said she would ensure the PDRC pays close attention to these issues and treats them should they arise.
Debe South has not been spared from the effects of the covid19 pandemic. Against this background, Sookdeo sees social development as an issue that must be kept on the front burner.
“Many residents have become more vulnerable due to the socio-economic fallout over the covid19 pandemic.”
Government, she observed, has helped many people affected by the pandemic with different forms of relief such as the provision of food cards, hampers, business and salary relief grants.
“I intend to identify those vulnerable persons and groups in the electoral district and be a fierce advocate on their behalf. I aim to lend assistance through approaching the relevant state agencies and non-profit organisations to ensure those most in need are able to get the help they can.”
Sookdeo also viewed community development as essential for Debe South and a major part of her duties as councillor.
“I intend to engage the various community organisations such as village councils, sport and cultural organisations, youth groups and religious organisations to foster a sense of cooperation for the development of our small and large communities.”
Many of these groups are capable of doing significant work in Debe South.
“I intend to help them get resources to build the communities they operate in.”