WATSON DUKE, political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), yesterday described as "paltry," the $25 million which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is seeking to assist distressed citizens in the wake of last weekend's devastating floods.
During a news conference at James Park, Scarborough, Tobago, Duke told reporters he was pained by the large number of people "who went to bed with everything, wake up with everything but during the course of Friday, lost every single thing.
"I want to sympathise with those people wherever they are. It is no easy thing to have everything – food, clothes and some level of direction and handle upon your life – to all of a sudden, within the space of one hour to two hours, you lose everything and you have no direction for your life."
He added: "You don't know where to go. You don't know if to come, if to stand up or if to lay down. That must be hard for those persons. Their life had undergone a type of shock."
Claiming about 50,000 people were seriously affected by the floods according to his calculations, Duke dismissed the $25 million, which Rowley said he would seek from the Cabinet to assist with relief efforts.
"I did the Maths. Fifty thousand persons thereabout would have been affected seriously by the flood, and we discovered that the prime minister wants to offer a paltry $25 million.
"Any school child could do the Maths and you will recognise that it is $500 per person, and then rightfully so he (Rowley) has left the country to attend some disaster management classes. I say he should go right back to ABC and do some figure classes because his Math just does not add up."
Duke compared the sum to the money that was spent on parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration Maxie Cuffie to assist with his medical expenses in the US some months ago.
"When you look at how much money was spent on one man who was ailing – Minister Cuffie – and you compare that with the amount of persons that are now ailing in our country from all diaspora, all ethnicity, all religious background, ages, sizes, political persuasion, you are saying you are putting a limit of $25 million. And some way by the side of his (Rowley) mouth, he is saying that is a start."
The Prime Minister revealed in the Parliament in February the total expenditure from the Government for Cuffie's medical bills was over TT$2 million.
The PDP leader also took issue with Rowley's decision to reject temporarily the offer made by three Caribbean leaders and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to assist TT with its flood relief efforts.
He said the widespread flooding again reflected the Government's lack of preparedness in managing national disasters.