It’s time for this People’s National Movement-led government to “buck up now or step out.” Opposition and United National Congress (UNC) leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, made this statement yesterday as she addressed supporters and members of the media following a UNC “March against Violence” in Chaguanas to mark International Women’s Day.
Speaking from the steps of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, Persad-Bissessar said she had been keeping relatively quiet over the past six months in order to give the government a chance to put things in place to deal with crime and the economy. However she said they have had enough chances.
She also criticised government’s actions, or lack thereof, regarding several issues including the Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s discontinuing the case against former Petrotrin executive chairman, Malcolm Jones in the World Gas to Liquids Limited (WGTL) project; the intention to establish a beach at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort in Tobago at the expense of taxpayers; and Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis’ large monetary deposit at First Citizens (FCB).
In the case of FCB, Persad-Bissessar said Prime Minister (PM) Dr Keith Rowley was more concerned about the breach of confidentiality than the behaviour of his Minister, yet he claimed he wanted Whistle-blower legislation which would protect persons who expose corrupt behaviour.
She accused Rowley of hypocrisy, and of using the bank as the scapegoat, which would produce negative results in this time of recession.
“Do not turn on FCB. It’s a State-run bank,” she said pointing directly at the Prime Minister. “If that is what you are doing, then you are going to cause a run on the bank.” “The amount of complaints we have to send to the Integrity Commission will keep me and many other lawyers busy for quite some time to come, in this one sixmonth (period), the former Prime Minister now Opposition Leader said. “It’s been a rapid-fire succession of issues for concern.” Persad-Bissessar also stated that the issue of violence was a prominent one, and that there had been an “explosion” of crime in the country since the PNM came to government on September 7, 2015.
She claimed that, during her time as PM, the Barbados Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite could never have suggested that Barbadians could take comfort from the fact that Trinidad and Tobago’s crime situation was worse.
She stated that, when she was PM, serious crimes were down by 31 percent, but now, there were “more murders than days in the year.” She said she would ask Rowley to work with the Opposition to pass the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill, which would allow soldiers to further assist the police. However, if government did not support the Bill, she would send the request as a private Bill to see if it garners support.
Meanwhile, she said the economy was suffering further due to Government’s lack of plans and muddled priorities.
Persad-Bissessar said her government’s priority would have been to put strategies in place to expand the economy given the downturn in oil and gas prices.
She gave the example of the UNC’s plan for the development of the blue, green and silver economies, as well as sports and medical tourism in the form of sports facilities, and the Couva Children’s Hospital.
She dismissed Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s talk of the country not having enough medical professionals to staff the hospital, or having to take a large number of staff from other health centres.
She claimed there were 160 unemployed doctors in the country, and that increasing the number of medical professionals was the reason her government set up the Nursing Academy.
“You must have a strategy to bring these people who need jobs for retraining and for those who are already trained, to bring them into the system,” she said.
She added that, while it may be necessary to use some professionals from other institutions, other nations were willing to assist us by providing medical staff.
“I do not believe their story.
I think it is another example of the malice and spite of the Rowley Government,” she said as she expressed concern that the UWI Debe campus too would be left incomplete and unused.