The Member of Parliament for Cumuto/Manzanilla, the Honourable Christine Newallo-Hosein is asking on behalf of her constituents, “Is this government saying that some lives matter more than others?”
This question comes as a result of a disclosure by the Member for St. Ann’s East who thanked the Minister of Social Development and Family Services for her assistance in providing her with food cards in the winding up of her budget presentation. None of the Opposition MPs over the last year was able to access basic relief for their constituents in spite of the countless requests for temporary food cards and other grants.
The Minister of Social Development and Family Services indicated over the past year an audit was being conducted into the TCCTP program of which over 13,000 persons were removed. This was in the midst of massive job-losses and ever-increasing food prices.
While the most vulnerable populate struggled to cope just to survive; and while the core social sector Ministry continued to deny applicants; it was made apparent in Parliament on Friday 7th October 2016 that the PNM was blatantly discriminating against the Opposition MPs.
MP Newallo-Hosein was reliably informed that over the last two weeks there has been a proliferation of temporary food cards (TFCs) that have been presented to supermarkets throughout the East West corridor but had no proof until the shocking revelation by the Minister of Arts and Culture. Under the PP Administration – the then Minister of the People and Social Development -Christine Newallo-Hosein, provided for ALL MPs to receive TFCs to offer immediate relief to the most vulnerable within their constituency.
The MP wishes to remind the media that on May 1st 2016, the Trinidad Guardian reported 11,800 permanent TCCTP-Card recipients were immediately cut off, only to find out in embarrassment when they tried to pay for groceries.
The latest figure of recipients that were cut off as reported on July 28th (Trinidad Guardian) was at 13,000 where the line Minister boasted of saving the government $25M and justifying that it was not a priority to the recipients or else they would come in to have it rectified and undergo biometric enrolment. It should be noted that the biometric enrollment was suspended and then completely disbanded.
Newallo-Hosein is questioning the principles of equity and social justice practiced by this government as reflected in the title of this year’s budget “A Blueprint for Transformation and Growth.” Is the Rowley-led government saying PNM lives are the only lives that matter? How does the Minister of Social Development propose to address this blatant discrimination? What was the criteria used to quietly distribute these temporary food cards over the last two weeks?
The constituents have expressed the view that “the PNM is again discriminating against the poor in rural areas, and against law-abiding citizens because of perceived political allegiance.” They are demanding an explanation on HOW the PNM MPs are getting these temporary food cards, if all attempts to apply through the regional offices were met with the response that, “there are no temporary food cards available.”
The Media will recall on October 11th 2015 in an interview with GISL, the Minister of Social Development and Family Services criticized the number of cards that were distributed throughout the MP’s offices and firmly declared that “all food cards would only be granted at my ministry’s offices since this would reduce the chances of misallocation and fraud.”
The concerned public is asking, “Did all PNM MPs get food-cards? If so, why not the UNC MPs?” This blatant discrimination begs the question: What were the criteria used to give them and not the others? If the standardized ‘means testing’ was used, why are those living in rural communities struggling to survive being denied while their neighbors in PNM constituencies are accessing the relief freely? One can only conclude that these cards are being used to get political patronage.
The MP expressed concerns over the timing of this form of relief in light of the fact that many expected an austere budget and is asking: “Was this an attempt by the government to counter this budget and prevent a fallout with their supporters?”
It is clear that this Rowley-led government cannot be trusted and owes this country some answers.