Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has declared that the consciences of both herself and that of the Opposition bench were “clear” as they had been prepared to support the government’s Anti-Gang Bill, although it would not have brought an end to the runaway crime rate.
Addressing a UNC Monday Night Forum meeting at the Paragon Indoor Sporting Facility, Debe Junction, on Monday night, she reiterated that the bill had been defeated by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley despite the best efforts of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to build consensus for the bill with the Opposition.
In a fighting mood, Persad-Bissessar said the meeting had been planned on Friday as a counter to the propaganda which was being propagated by the Prime Minister, whom she dubbed the government’s chief “spin doctor.”
“We have a government of spin doctors, led by the biggest spin doctor, spin doctor Rowley,” she said, adding, “When we put forward a recommendation for a two year sunset clause, the Prime Minister said, ‘I not doing that,’ and then he says, after one in the morning, ‘Put it to the vote.”
“I want to ask the Prime Minister tonight, spin doctor Rowley, why did you vote against the two-year sunset clause, why, if this bill you say is so important, why did you vote against your own bill, why did you sabotage your own bill?
“They want this law so badly – this will solve the crime, this will solve the murders – but what about the other laws on the statute books? Why don’t you prosecute the criminals under these laws, why?” she asked before lifting several books labelled Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have tonnes and tonnes of laws on our statute books, you talking about one anti-gang bill that you could not compromise. There are 90 chapters of laws in TT,” she said, adding, “And if anyone is to blame I will blame spin doctor Rowley first and foremost.
“I saw an interesting thing in the Parliament, AG Faris – you may not like him, some of you may like him, some of us know he is very loquacious; he talks a lot – but I saw him really try on the day for the vote to try to reach a consensus. But sitting next to him was the bull-headed stubborn, insulting prime minister.
“I go forward with a clear conscience, the Opposition members who voted against it go forward with a clear conscience.”
Persad-Bissessar then addressed the prime minister’s announcement of a Cabinet-appointed committee to buy a boat to service the inter-island ferry service, saying this committee did not have any legal authority to buy any vessel and was bypassing the Central Tenders Board Act.
“The last time they bought a boat, the MV Sue, how much money did they pay? Is about $52 million. It just never floated,” she said.
“It is my respectful view that the appointment of a Cabinet committee to buy these boats, a boat or whatever boat, is totally unlawful according to the laws of TT,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar then outlined a theory by which the Ocean Flower 2 boat would be introduced on the Tobago route, saying one of the present fast ferries would soon be dry-docked and this would result in a “vacuum” being artificially created on the route.
“And when that vacuum is created, listen, enter the red and ready and enter who? Ocean Flower 2. Ocean Flower 2 parked up somewhere in our waters, came down here even when they said they cancelled the contract, came here, they clean it up, they repaired it, and just waiting quietly so that when there is none, they just slip Ocean Flower 2 and say, ‘Look, you all want ferry, take ferry,’” she said. “But we will expose your action every step of the way.”
Persad-Bissessar also took Finance Minister Colm Imbert to task over his changing of Section 46.2 of the Central Bank Act to allow for the overdraft to be increased from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.
“This was the same facility Colm Imbert came in every budget debate, he said the Partnership government was running on fumes. He never said he was going to take more advances on the overdraft,” she said.
And regarding the fake oil scandal she said a copy of the Kroll report had been requested under the Freedom of Information Act, saying this report should be made public as it involved a state-owned company.
She also called for the removal of the Petrotrin employee who is currently being investigated for his alleged role in the scandal.