CARONI East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Standing Finance Committee chairman Bridgid Annisette George clashed verbally on Wednesday during a committee meeting.
The war of words occurred during discussion on a $709 million allocation for repayment to the Infrastructure Development Fund following a transfer to Petrotrin in November 2019 for termination payments.
Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie asked Finance Minister Colm Imbert if he was willing to provide a breakdown of the exit costs associated with the closure of Petrotrin.
Imbert said this was asked and answered in Parliament already by a number of questions to ministers, “so I will simply pull from the questions and answers.” Tewarie replied he would be grateful for that.
He then asked the total cost for the closure of Petrotrin to date. Imbert said in his opinion that did not apply to this supplementation and he asked for a ruling from the chair.
Annisette George said: “And hadn’t the Minister of Finance rushed to answer I would have then determined I don’t allow you to ask a question under this.”
Gopeesingh asked if the $709 million was a part of the exit costs and what was the total exit costs.
Annisette George: I think that was the question that was just asked in another formulation.
Gopeesingh: But madame chair we need the answer from the minister.
Annisette George: Member for Caroni East I am not denying the fact that you need the answer.
Gopeesingh: But madame chair...
Annisette George: Member for Caroni East! We both can’t...excuse me?
Gopeesingh: Are you attempting to answer the question for the minister?
Annisette George: No I’m not attempting to...member for Caroni East.
Gopeesingh: I don’t think I should be deprived of asking the question.
Annisette George: Member for Caroni East either you give me an opportunity to respond or you exercise your options.
Gopeesingh then complained of not being allowed his five minutes to ask his question. He complained of being deprived the opportunity to get his answer and registered an objection to her ruling. “And that is not right.” Annisette George replied, objection heard.
He asked Imbert if the figure included security costs for Petrotrin. Imbert said it was only about the replenishment of the IDF. “But why was the money taken out of the IDF? For what? You have to answer that.” Annisette-George, however, moved to have a vote on the supplementation.
Gopeesingh: “This is authoritarianism to the highest order. Unacceptable! I have been in Parliament longer than you have been.” Government MPs gasps were audible.
Annisette George: “I would ask you, in fact I would caution you, to kind of exercise a degree of temperance so we can continue. If not then we will have to take a course that I really don’t want to adopt.” Gopeesingh stayed quiet.