Leader of the Opposition and Political Leader of the United National Congress Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP is calling on citizens to take a stand against the Government’s move to implement the Property Tax.
Speaking at the UNC’s Monday Night Forum in Tunapuna on 15th May, 2017, Mrs Persad-Bissessar knocked the Government for trying to intimidate citizens for voicing their dissatisfaction during a protest last Friday.
Below are highlights of her remarks:
We were the best delivering Government this country has ever seen. And while you can see and touch the projects which we implemented all over Trinidad and Tobago, we have to ask Rowley “where the money gone?”
Right here in El Dorado you have the state of the art Nursing Academy. You have the Debe campus of the UWI which out of spite they refuse to open. You have the San Fernando Teaching Hospital and the Couva Children’s Hospital.
And today when I see the Minister of National Security issuing a statement – I will read it so you can see how they are intent on trampling and violating the rights of citizens, and it doesn’t matter to them if they rip up the Constitution by their actions.
The statement reads: “Law enforcement has therefore launched an investigation into the matter to determine whether anyone was culpable for the massive pile-up and whether any action should be taken.
“The Ministry of National Security wishes to stress that the country’s interest must always be put first, and that narrow political ends, especially when it puts peoples’ lives in danger should never be encouraged or condoned.”
In the first place, in the Law, no Ministry of National Security, no Minister of National Security has any jurisdiction over any investigation or over law enforcement.
They are out to penalize, to victimize and to discriminate against law-abiding citizens in this country. Today the murder rate is 185 out of 135 days for the year. So with the robberies, the murders, the kidnappings, he wants to investigate law-abiding citizens for freedom of expression. Look at where they are taking us down – the path of dictatorship.
I applaud UNC members who took it upon themselves to join those right-thinking citizens engaged in protest in the rain last Friday.
I say to the Minister of National Security – withdraw your unlawful, unconstitutional press release, and I call on all three Ministers of National Security to resign now. You cannot be attempting to intimidate and terrify law-abiding citizens when you cannot deal with the horrendous scourge of crime in this country.
On Friday I shall be there peacefully and I ask you to join me. So long as they refuse to open the hospital we will continue to voice our concerns. I suggest we come out at 10:30 at the Couva Children’s hospital.
And while I speak about hospitals – we started work on the Arima Hospital and the Point Fortin Hospital. The Minister is talking now about taking the Couva Children’s Hospital and opening it as a public-private hospital. You know what that means? You will have to pay. And who are the partners? Their friends and family. I want to ask if they will be doing this in Arima and Point Fortin? Or is something about the Couva Children’s hospital?
They have no vision, they have no plan, they have no care for the young ones in Trinidad and Tobago. And what is going to happen come September? They will close the GATE so that many are now unable to access tertiary education.
They have no plan. Or maybe their plan is to fill the pockets of their friends, their financiers and their family.
Let us look at Massy Communications – the Board approved up to $225 million, but they settled at $255. Where did the $30 million go? On four occasions in the Parliament Minister Hinds said that Cabinet did not know. Ministers Imbert and Young in post cab said Cabinet did not know, but the Prime Minister said the Cabinet knew.
There was an article talking about how the Opposition is divided. Our MPs have portfolios and so you will hear them speaking out on issues. How on earth does that mean we are divided? And then if we don’t send out a press release they say we are silent. But I can tell you this, when our MPs speak on issues, they have the same position, but when the PNM Ministers speak you don’t know who to believe because each of them says something different.
I am very proud of the work we have done since September 2015. We were able to gain votes in every region in the last local government election. The Government in power got fewer votes in that election. It means we are on the rise.
I want to touch on the matter of housing – today I heard of homes being demolished in Valencia, and residents protesting and calling for fresh elections. I remember we shared with you our vision to make our society a home-owning society. I shared with you my own personal experience of moving from house to house, and I shared with you our plan for squatter regularization, because I know the most important thing to a family is to have a place to call your own. They have no plan. Except to raid your homes, raid your land through this unconstitutional property tax. They want to take what you took so long to build – because if you do not pay the tax they will take your land, it will revert to the State.
How many of you will stand with me, stand with us? Tonight I issue a call to every right-thinking person in our land – let us band together – stand up for your rights.
While people suffering in Tobago, cannot get food, they used the boats to transport golf carts. People starving, people dying, but that man golfing still. The Minister from Tobago stood up in the Parliament and boasted “we have no shortage in Tobago” but while she was speaking, shop owners were being interviewed on the news showing their empty shelves. You cannot believe anything that they say.
We know they had no plan and now wherever you go people are saying the same thing. We had a plan. We talked about seven growth poles that would concentrate on certain types of development. That Couva Children’s hospital was supposed to help with – medical tourism. People would have come and pay for that hospital while Trinidad and Tobago citizens would have free access. We spoke about the silver, blue and green economies to transform the country.
What we need now is the fourth industrial revolution – ICT. That is why our vision and plan was to give every child a laptop. I am proud that we delivered laptops to children – that was to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow – in the digital economy. We were recognized by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for outstanding performance in ICT in our education sector. What a long way backwards we have gone today.
Every time the PNM has been in power, the murder rate has increased. I want to remind you – we were able to bring serious crimes down to the lowest ever in thirty-one years. In September 2015, post- election, Former Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith handed over to the incoming Minister of National Security a detailed list of our policy initiatives and status of each.
We shared our policy initiatives with the Rowley government when, at my request, we met with the Prime Minister and his team last year, but not one of those recommendations has come to pass. They are clueless, vision-less and plan-less when it comes to crime.
I have the two pre-action protocol letters sent to the Government regarding the Property Tax by our legal teams, fighting on your behalf. We will continue to fight this tax in the Parliament, on the streets and in the courts.
Why has the government not considered exempting single home-owners? We can consider giving home owners a tax break if they use alternative energy, for example. You can give home owners a tax break for taking care of the area in front of their homes. And our senior citizens should be exempt. Under the Law senior citizens can get it deferred, but it will have to be paid at some point down the road. And in some cases you will inherit what your parents, grandparents had to pay.
This Rowley government is the most corrupt government in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. Not only are they incompetent, but this government is corrupt. The Massy bailout – the replacement of the Galicia. Imagine you take of the Galicia and replace it with a boat that is taking fewer people and costing more money. How many millions were spent on the fete match for the opening of the Brian Lara stadium. One of the first contracts they awarded was for a lobbyist – hired without a proper procurement process.
We will continue to fight for you, and I look forward to joining hand in hand peacefully on Friday. Stand up for your rights, let us work together.