EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia on Friday swore on the grave of his dead son to allege that corruption in building construction had existed under the former UNC government. He spoke in debate in the House of Representatives on a private motion criticising the Government’s handling of the education sector.
“Madam Speaker, just let me relate to you an experience of mine. When I first came into office, after a few weeks a contractor a contractor came to me at my home.
“He presented to me a stack of bills, $100 bills, and told me, ‘Mr Garcia, Here is your 10 percent. $50,000. Here is your 10 per cent, because we have been told that whenever we finish a contract and whenever we are paid, we are to make a contribution of 10 per cent and here is your 10 per cent.’”
Opposition MPs mumbled aloud to question his veracity.
Garcia replied, “I stand on the grave of my son. I can tell you what I say here is the truth. I told that contractor where to get off, because in his estimation in order to get further employment he had to give the minister a 10 per cent cut. That is the level!”
Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh rose on standing order 48(4) and 48(6) which respectively ban an MP from using offensive and insulting language towards another MP, or imputing improper motives.
Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George calmed the House, and then overruled Gopeesingh’s objection.
Garcia resumed, You know my colleague from Tobago West (Shamfa Cudjoe) said, ‘Why is he so jittery?’ I don’t understand.”
He then named schools affected by yesterday’s bomb scare as St Mary’s College, St Joseph Convent (Port of Spain), St Joseph Convent (St Joseph), St George’s College and Fatima College amongst others.
“Today most of our secondary schools were affected because someone with some deranged mind decided to post on social media a bomb-scare.
“The objective was to disrupt the exams. People on that (Opposition) side would deny that. Terrorists! A pack of terrorists!”
The Speaker disallowed the term “terrorist”, and Garcia agreed to withdraw it.
“We have reported that matter to the police and Cyber Crime Unit. Before long the person(s) responsible for that act will be found out.”
Garcia justified his tenure. He said under the former regime the National School Feeding Programme was an affront to the taxpayer and plagued by wastage, until his Government rationalised it, to supply only “those who deserved the meals.” Garcia said he and minister Dr Lovell Francis had acted to curb school violence, which he said is now no longer on the radar.