27 Mar 2008

Trinidadian efficiency at work

Public servants enjoyed seeing me suffer

Wednesday, March 26 2008

THE EDITOR: I wish to share my experiences with the general public regarding my request for a "free computer generated birth certificate". On February 6 2007, I mailed my request, together with those for my wife and son in the same envelope, to the Registrar General's Office. Five days later the Certificate for my son came, and ten days later my wife received hers. Mine remained outstanding.

After six months of waiting, I started to enquire the reason for the long delay. I made numerous telephone calls to the Registrar General's Office. I was given several numbers which I called and eventually someone told me that my name "is not yet scanned and it is not on the system". Here it is that I am about to die but according to the Registrar General's Office, I am not yet born. As the months rolled along, I continued enquiring but to no avail. I was eventually advised to visit the Office in Port-of-Spain to "straighten" matters.

So very early, 3.30 am to be exact, on Thursday February 13, I started my journey to Port-of- Spain. After spending hours in bumper to bumper traffic, I arrived at the designated office at 6.30 am where I joined a line about ¼ mile long. I entered the building at 8 am and got a number 411. All applicants for birth certificates were herded into a tent in the back of the building. As about 200 of us sat in the sweltering heat, a security guard would occasionally call out a few numbers. I was finally called about 12.30 pm and made to sit in the "green room".

At 1.30 pm I was called by a "verifier" who calmly told me that I have to pay $25 for my "free" birth certificate since one was already prepared and was handed to TTPost.

After waiting for over a year, this sounded like a fairy tale. Tired, hungry and exhausted, I paid for this document hoping to get it the same day. But lo and behold, I was told I would have to return the next day to collect it. No one listened to my pleadings. I felt as though I was talking to mindless robots who enjoyed seeing me suffer. I eventually left that place dejected and disenchanted for my return journey home. The following day I returned at 9 am and after a wait of 2½ hours got my treasured "free" birth certificate for which I paid $25. But now for icing on the cake. On March 17, three days after my trips to Port-of-Spain, TTPost finally delivered my truly free birth certificate, the one which I had applied for more than a year ago. So now I have two birth certificates. It may appear that TTPost caused this delay but on examining the receipt attached to the document, I realised the delay was caused by the ever "efficient robotic" staff of the Registrar General's Office.

Some may wonder why I am upset by this experience. Well let me explain. To begin with, I live in Point Fortin which is nowhere close to Port-of-Spain. Also, I am a senior citizen aged 73 with some medical conditions and also with very limited financial resources.

Over the two days, I had to spend a total of $112.00 in transport and a further $6 to use toilet facilities in Port-of-Spain. Then I paid for the Birth Certificate making a total of $143.00 overall. I had to remain hungry on both days because I simply did not have the money to buy a doubles, the cheapest of which was $3.00.

I wish to congratulate our administrators of this land of my birth for the very efficient and humane manner in which they treat the citizens, especially the elderly. Soon, I will once again have to go through a similar exercise as I have to obtain a machine readable passport. May heaven help me.

NAZIM GEETAN

Fanny Village

Point Fortin

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