The United National Congress (UNC) today held a Strategic Planning Session to discuss the state of the country and national issues, and to develop an approach for improved service delivery and representation.
The session was attended by Members of Parliament, Senators, and leaders in the Local Government Sector and the UNC’s National Executive.
Government’s Failure in the Aftermath of the Storm
It is very clear that the Government has collapsed. This Rowley Government has failed in every aspect of governance and has neglected to provide for citizens in the wake of Tropical Storm Bret, particularly in the areas of the country that were badly affected by the storm.
While they were shaking hands and smiling for the cameras in South Trinidad, they neglected to go into Central and East Trinidad. Once again, the government was missing in action.
Based on reports from our representatives on the corridor, it appears that the Government has given up on the corridor.
Today, we took some decisions with regard to the relief effort.
The UNC will set up emergency collection centres for persons who wish to donate and contribute towards persons affected by the storm, and one of these will be the Party’s Headquarters in Couva. The UNC-led Regional Corporations such as the Penal-Debe, Siparia, Princes Town, Couva-Tabaquite, and also Mayaro have been asked to set up special units to collect and coordinate distribution of relief. We are making special arrangements for those Corporations where we do not have control, so that the people of these areas who were abandoned by the Government, can get assistance.
While the Government has announced a $25 million fund, we still have no idea how, when, what funds will be disbursed. To date, not a single grant has been given to flood victims.
Further, given the Government’s failure to provide assistance to people affected by the floods, the UNC will be issuing an International SOS to the diaspora and to good Samaritans who are willing to assist. Already two organizations have contacted us, and we will work with them to provide relief to affected people.
Thirdly, I have asked Shadow Minister of Local Government Dr Surujrattan Rambachan to work with local government representatives to get medical teams on the ground in affected areas.
Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker
Last night we had an interesting development in the Parliament. We were debating a motion of urgent public importance with respect to the failure of Government to provide timely, effective and efficient relief to victims of Tropical Storm Bret, and in the course of that debate, an incident occurred, which is the latest in a series of matters pertaining to the Parliament.
Our Constitution sets out what is to take place in the proceedings of our Parliament. The Constitution has expressly provided for freedom of expression in the Parliament, in the framework of the existing Standing Orders. What is the role of the Presiding Officer in the House, in this case, the Speaker? The Speaker’s role is to facilitate freedom of expression within the Standing Orders. And it is the duty of the Speaker to let Parliamentarians have their say in the Parliament. We have experienced a state of affairs where the Speaker has not been facilitating freedom of expression, and we have many examples in that regard.
Last night MP Barry Padarath was speaking in the House, comments came from across the floor from the Leader of Government Business, ably supported by the Prime Minister, and we called upon the Speaker under the Standing Orders to rule on the matter, but the Speaker suspended the House. When we returned we again called on the Speaker under Standing Order 48 (1) and 48 (6) for a ruling, and we were denied. We felt there was no justice in the Parliament and so we decided to leave the Parliament.
This is just one in a series of incidents that we have great concern about in terms of properly representing our constituents in the Parliament, of freedom of expression, to take up issues in the Parliament. Today we received communication from the UNC National Executive calling upon us, the Members of the Parliament to file an appropriate motion based on the incident last night, as well as the number of other incidents over the course of this Session of Parliament. We have taken the decision today that we will file a motion of no confidence in the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Strategic Planning Session
The discussions centred on social, economic and otherwise transformative and national development issues. We conducted a clinical analysis of the state of the economy, measures to diversify and stimulate growth, the on-going crime epidemic, increasing poverty and unemployment, the failing health sector and declines in education.
The Planning Session also examined the unacceptable response of the Government and its various agencies in almost every arena of life in our country.
The Opposition examined a strategic initiative to improve the capacity of service delivery at the local government level. In addition, we looked at how to develop more facilitative relationships between MPs and local government representatives.
Participants also engaged in an honest review of our performance as an Opposition and agreed on certain measures to increase our effectiveness as an alternative government. As part of that exercise, there was a review of certain manifesto policy initiatives.
Following the extensive discussions today, the party developed a framework for the strategy to take us back into Government.
We have prepared an Economic Recovery Plan for the country, and that will be determined in greater detail in the coming weeks, and Dr Tewarie will lead a team of our MPs to examine the plan and have it in time for presentation in the upcoming Budget debate.
The UNC remains very concerned about the economic outlook for Trinidad and Tobago. We are headed for a complete collapse of the economy, and we will re-examine our Manifesto policy initiatives and prepare a comprehensive Economic Recovery Plan which we can put forward to the nation.