We must remember where we came from, it is the only way that we can anchor where we are going. Today, after 20 months, we can ask the Rowley Government to show us one initiative, one development that we can touch, and see, and feel, and benefit from.
The one thing they can point to is what I call the “cowshed of shame” – the 1.2 billion-dollar stadium of shame – the Tarouba Stadium.
What else can they show? They can show that today murders are at 232. They can show that thousands of jobs have been lost. They can show that they shut down every social programme that was in place to benefit people.
We have seen it – this Rowley Government is the most uncaring Government. This Rowley Government is the most corrupt Government, and it is the most wicked Government in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
I want to clarify some points with regard to the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal on the Property Tax. The Court of Appeal’s ruling is consistent with what we have been saying all along – you do not have to fill out any valuation return form. The Court of Appeal said further – it is voluntary. You do not have to fill out this form. I told you from day one, and the Court of Appeal judgment in effect confirms that this form is not worth the paper it is printed on. You cannot be prosecuted for not submitting the form. Stand up for your rights.
Marriage Bill – Creeping Dictatorship:
I come to you to clarify some areas with regard to this Bill. I have seen, demonstrated from the Government the most heinous, the most untenable kinds of positions on freedom and democracy in Trinidad and Tobago, as demonstrated in their behaviour, in the debate on the Marriage Bill and outside. First of all, I condemn any attack on any religious leader. It could be Sat Maharaj from the Maha Sabha, it could be SWAHA, the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the mosques, mandirs – I condemn any attack on any religious leader in our country. We condemn that brutal attack in a church on Father Harvey, it shows the state of lawlessness in our country.
But there are different kinds of attack – you can attack like that with guns but you can also attack with words. I condemn the Prime Minister, and any members of his Government for making attacks that are unwarranted against religious leaders in our country.
We have to remember, our Constitution enshrines of freedom of religion, freedom of worship and most importantly, freedom of expression – freedom of speech.
We are seeing a Government that is hell bent on a road to dictatorship.
We had always said that with respect to marriage that the age should be increased. And we believe that we live in a democracy with rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression and so everyone must be given a chance to be heard. So we allowed the religious leaders to nominate someone to speak on their behalf and share their views in the Senate. That is the people’s House.
Our Senators were so disgusted when a sitting Attorney General ended the debate and said “I am removing the Constitutional Certificate and Constitutional Preamble in the Bill. We don’t need your vote.” That’s what they told the Senators. The AG found a backdoor approach to get the Bill passed in the Senate. And so our Senators abstained from voting.
We were not against age 18. If you check my record I have always said the age should be increased, but our arguments were that there should be some exceptions. We put forward amendments – 19 NGOs sent those to us – the Government didn’t want it, they moved it out.
They are so wicked, unpatriotic and undemocratic – they have a problem with freedom of speech – people coming to Parliament to express their views.
Access to Courts
They are attacking and bullying people for going to the courthouse. The day a citizen of our country cannot have access to the Courts of Law we are in a total collapsed state and our rights are violated and gone forever. But Rowley had no problem, when he had issues in Opposition, from using the very same Courts of Law. Any country where citizens do not have unimpeded access to the Courts of Law, a right guaranteed in the supreme Law of our country, the Constitution, you “gone through”.
They are attacking and bullying people for protesting in the streets.
What we see is a creeping dictatorship, intimidation tactics, and if we allow them to continue the day will come when we cannot stand up and we cannot speak.
Standing up for citizens’ rights:
They are attacking the Opposition for trying to take up issues in the Parliament, and now they are bringing a Cybercrime Bill that will lock up people for expressing themselves on the Internet, and this Bill also has many provisions in it to muzzle the media, to stop people from expressing themselves.
We will scrutinize every section, every clause of that Bill to ensure that we stand up for your rights. Rowley could jump high, he could jump low, he could shout, he could scream, we will stand with you, we will stand up for your rights.
The Constitution guarantees everyone, every organization equal protection of the Law, equality before the Law and access to justice. In recent times, we have had several cases challenging the illegal, unjust, undemocratic, dictatorial actions of the Government. This includes the Property Tax, and the composition of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. Rowley accused us of using the courts as our playground to cause “chaos and mayhem”. That is utter madness and nonsense.
Mr Rowley and his Government should not talk, as they were not shy of going to the Courts. Rowley sued the Integrity Commission. Mr Manning took the Privileges Committee to court. So when “do so eh like so”. When it suits them, as they have a right to, they go to the courts. But when other people use due process they have a problem with that.
We will not be intimidated, we will defend the public interest; we will protect the Constitution and the Law from the tentacles and outreach of the Rowley PNM.
When we were in Government we respected the judicial process, we did not attack judges when matters did not go our way. We did not intimidate or harass judges. But this appears to be the modus operandi of the PNM and Mr Rowley.
Today the Court of Appeal rejected an attempt by AG Faris Al Rawi to block the grant of leave for Devant Maharaj to take his case regarding the composition of the JLSC to the Privy Council and granted leave for that case to be taken to the Privy Council.
We will not give up. We will fight them in the Parliament, we will fight them in the Courts, and we will fight them in the streets, the villages, the communities, the highways and byways throughout the land.
I make no apologies for standing up and defending rights.
Uncaring Rowley Government:
They have no moral or other authority to talk about us in the UNC not caring about children. That was a line of attack they tried to use in the Marriage Bill –that we want to promote child abuse.
No one can dare say that I do not care for children. Our record speaks for itself:
- We gave secondary school places for all – 13,000 boys and girls dumped out the system before. I removed the dreaded Common Entrance and introduced the SEA when I was Education Minister
- Universal pre-school education
- Children’s authority
- Children’s life fund
- Children’s hospital
- Baby grant
- Grants for kids with cerebral palsy
- Laptops for children
- Numerous new schools and early childhood centres built
No one in that Government has the moral or any authority authority to talk about our achievements when it comes to children in Trinidad and Tobago.
Everything that we did is now under threat. This same wicked Rowley government took away baby grant, took away grant for moms with kids suffering from cerebral palsy, cut GATE, lock up hospital, cut school feeding but they could find $255 million for MASSY, $92,000 for Daryl. I understand that there is another Minister of Government who went romping in Tobago, and her Ministry paid $85,000 for that Minister and her husband to attend Jazz Festival. When I get the documents we will share them with you.
They have the gall to talk about children, when the sitting Attorney General – a child from his constituency applied for the Children’s Life Fund, and this child died because they were seeking a legal opinion from him to see whether the child would fall under exceptional circumstances to get the grant. While the child was waiting because the AG was too busy, the time passed and the child died.
So they have no moral authority to question the record of the People’s Partnership and my record when it comes to caring for the children of this country.
They have no love and care for people. How can you have a man dying outside of a hospital? No care and no love for anyone. They are arrogant, they talk down to people, they bully people, they intimidate people. They are all following their leader, because that is where it comes from. Remember the words of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning: “When my friend does not get his way, he becomes a raging bull.” We do not see the Prime Minister meeting and talking with people, he is always screaming and shouting at somebody.
Rowley’s Sinking Ship:
It looks like Rowley’s ship is sinking – people bailing from government positions. The newspaper headlines – T&T Express breaks down with the Prime Minister on it.
We went from the Superfast Galicia to a super slow barge, Superfast Government to dead stop Government, Superfast delivery to no delivery, Superfast performance to non-performance in 20 months.
I want to talk to you about what I am now calling the “Ferry racket” – Ferry Gate. A Canadian gentleman went across to Greece and said he wanted to buy a boat named Megajet for Trinidad and Tobago. I am raising this now because I am asking questions of the Government about this plan that they have to get another boat for the inter-island service. I am told it is to be run by the same operator that is running the ferry service now, it is a CAT type, like the current ferries, but it is four years older than the ones currently in operation.
I am told the boat started with a contract in the Azores, but our Government is negotiating to buy out the contract. We understand that the boat is about $8 m USD, but the Government is in negotiations to pay $10 m USD. Further, there has been no tender process by the CTB, the Port Authority or anyone. We also understand that it will cost 18,000 Euro per day to operate this boat – about $180,000 TT per day. The Prime Minister must come clean on this matter. He owes the people of Trinidad and Tobago an explanation.
He seems obsessed with Sandals – another deal that requires clarification. In Barbados the Sandals operator was granted a number of concessions, including 25 years of tax breaks. What is our Government going to give Sandals? No property tax, exemption from corporation tax? Exemption from all withholding taxes on interest paid to non-resident financial institutions, and portion of loans for financing the operations of the hotel? The payment of duties and levies which may be due in relation to any property which may be acquired for use and benefit of the hotel – no property tax? But they want us to pay property tax. No stamp duty for loans and mortgages and debentures and so on? No duties on consumables, food, alcohol, beverages, also no VAT? These were the kinds of tax breaks given to Sandals in Barbados.
I call on the Prime Minister to tell us – are these the kind of benefits that will be offered to the Sandals chain, but lost to the people of Trinidad and Tobago? If we are giving away all of this what will come to Trinidad and Tobago? The only thing I heard him talk about and he looked so happy with is that Sandals will bring a golf course. People can’t get food, but his greatest joy and excitement is a golf course. People suffering – crime, jobs, but he’s golfing still.
When these hotels come in they have nothing to do with the local economy. They don’t even buy your produce. The Prime Minister says, “well they will create jobs”, but who are they going to hire? We will wait and see. Prime Minister – you have a duty to tell us whether you are going to give Sandals 25 year and 40-year tax breaks.
Law Enforcement PNM Style
Murders are at 232. But the Minister of National Security is hiding after his meltdown in Parliament. We have three Ministers of National Security, but zero results.
Dillion said officers trained for mentally challenged people, but Glenda Jennings Smith said officers are not trained. Denis Moses said – officers are trained. How could anyone have confidence in these people? Seems they don’t even know what the other is doing or saying.
PNM style of law enforcement is: ignore murders and serious crime but chase down motorists and fine the life out of them. Chase down vendors and fine the life out of them. Chase down squatters and destroy their homes and lives.
They chase down protesting parents who just want better lives for their children, that is law enforcement Rowley style.
I ask you, do not lose hope. Because we know the sun always rises every morning.
When we form the Government again we will move to regularise all squatters in Trinidad and Tobago.
I want to promise you when we get back into Government we will open the Couva Children’s Hospital in three months’ time. Within six months we will restart the rebuilding of the Port of Spain General Hospital, complete the Arima Hospital and the Point Fortin Hospital. We will not honour any corrupt contracts by this EFCL or any of the State companies. And we will open the South campus of the University of the West Indies.
When we get back into office with your help, we will undo the Property Tax, we will undo the Red and Ready – let’s “undo this together”.
Let us move forward, stay strong.
God bless you, God bless Trinidad and Tobago.
Monday Night Forum, St Helena Hindu School, June 12, 2017