Government MPs are setting aside more time to spend with their constituents, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal disclosed yesterday, even as he was out in his Oropouche East constituency.
MPs are reorganising their “government business” so “greater hours could be spent with constituents”, Moonilal said on a visit to Aussies Park, Lallbeharry Trace, Monkey Town, Barrackpore.
Constituents have a “renewed focus” on what their MPs are doing, Moonilal, deputy leader of the United National Congress (UNC), told reporters.
“Parliamentarians are probably having extra attention,” Moonilal noted, adding MPs always try to go out into the communities, some doing so before going to constituency offices for one-on- one meetings with constituents. “These are things we do naturally, and what we try to do before we go into the office is make one visit or so in the constituency, so several MPs, if not all, maintain a good contact in the constituency in terms of their office day but also their field work,” he said.
He disagreed recent outings by Government MPs, had anything to do with local government elections which are due by October, or last week’s Chaguanas West bye-election, won by former UNC chairman and minister Jack Warner.
“Our strategy is that once we finish with the bye-election, with local government elections in the air and in a couple years, general election, that we have freed some of our days to ensure more contact time with the constituency and with field work,” Moonilal said.
He said there was a “renewed interest” in the operations of Parliament, saying one of the “shortcomings” of parliamentarians, especially Opposition Members, was the part time nature of the job.
Following last Friday’s ceremonial opening of Parliament, where President Anthony Carmona called on MPs to start work from 8 am, Moonilal noted debates always started in the afternoon, at 1.30 pm, since many MPs had professional jobs which they did on mornings.
Even so, there are occasions when parliamentarians start work at 9 am in preparation of committee meetings before the afternoon debates. He noted elected Government MPs with ministerial portfolios also had to fulfill their responsibilities to constituents.
“We have to review whether the member of Parliament should be a full time job or part time job, with ministers of Government, we also have our Ministries, many of us also have our constituencies so that you can’t judge a member of Parliament or a Minister by watching TV (Parliament Channel) because that is not all that we do,” he added.
Moonilal, over the weekend, said MPs’ salaries should be increased so they could serve as parliamentarians full time but yesterday said this should be in keeping with what public servants receive.
“The Government’s position has been and continues to be we cannot support any salary increase for members of Parliament or ministers that are outside of any salary increase granted to ordinary citizens and public officers and civil service,” Moonilal said.
Asked whether a five percent increase may be applicable as the public service had received a five percent wage increase, he said, “Well if it was a five percent the officers got we could look at that but we don’t determine that, the Salaries Review Commission does that.”