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Tuesday 12 November 2019
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McDonald gets picong from Gayadeen-Gopeesingh

Oropouche West MP Vidia Gayadeen-Gopeesingh speaks during debate on the budget on Monday.  PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI - SUREASH CHOLAI
Oropouche West MP Vidia Gayadeen-Gopeesingh speaks during debate on the budget on Monday. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI - SUREASH CHOLAI

EMBATTLED Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald received some picong in Parliament on Monday from the usually reserved Oropouche West MP Vidia Gayadeen-Gopeesingh.

Gayadeen-Gopeesingh was contributing to budget debate in the House yesterday.

She said she had asked various housing ministers to help one of her constituents, Sumintra (only first name given),
with a house. McDonald, a former housing minister, said she had not been asked.

Gayadeen-Gopeesingh replied: "I didn't ask you? You didn't remain long enough."

McDonald was housing minister from September 2015-March 2016 and was relieved of her last portfolio, as public administration minister, in August, after she was charged with conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and misbehaviour in public office relating to the Calabar Foundation.

Gayadeen-Gopeesingh, in her contribution, questioned whether the country's patrimony was being sold out and said 22 Caroni workers at bungalows at the Ste Madeleine Refinery site had received notices.

"And it's my understanding that they are going to sell those lands or lease the lands – we don't know, we're asking questions – to someone to build a mall. So that is what I am asking here today. Who is that person, how much land you're going to lease and to whom."

She said Finance Minister Colm Imbert's budget 2019/2020 presentation was titled Stability, Strength and Growth, but the only thing growing was crime and murders. Gayadeen-Gopeesingh lamented that her constituency used to be quiet and people would sleep with their doors and windows open, but now they were in their houses at 6pm and there were daily robberies.

Gayadeen-Gopeesingh said the previous administration established and resourced the Praedial Larceny Squad but currently the officers were complaining about cockroaches and rats in the office and no working vehicles.

"They cannot even go out there to assist the farmers. Poor state of affairs."

She said she had a client in Plum Mitan who has cameras on her avocado crop and sees people stealing her avocadoes but is afraid to confront them.

She also said Heritage Petroleum cannot do exploration on the lands vested in it because there are many issues, including that
in seven years 5,000 squatters have occupied the lands.

She said there was a question of who had the surface rights and who had the sub-surface rights.

"All these things have to iron out."

She suggested the land should be divested back to Palo Seco Agricultural Enterprises Ltd and return to agricultural use.

She said the previous administration had put in a number of measures to develop rice farming with imported seeds and disease-resistant varieties, but this government shut down the initiatives.

"Imagine, we had everything in place to propagate these disease-resistant varieties in Trinidad. And you would have assisted these farmers. If you had given the support to the rice farmers you would have saved $135 million a year from imported rice."

She said this government would have saved about $540 million.

"But you see they have more dollars than sense."

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