Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis is denying there is any shortage of food support cards for those in need during the covid 19 pandemic. She said her ministry has already delivered 197 cards to all MPs who are ultimately responsible for their distribution and not the regional corporations, as some believe.
On Tuesday, chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy said there was rising anger amongst residents in the Barrackpore area over the omission of their names for temporary food support relief from the state. He said councillors were being abused by residents as they vented their anger and frustration.
However, Robinson-Regis said on Wednesday that all cards were given to the MPs, with the exception of one, Barataria/San Juan MP Dr Fuad Khan.
“The representative for Penal/Debe is the leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissesssar. She has collected all the cards and so far we have given out 197 cards and we have more cards available. They came in today.
“Let me tell you, the cards have to be ordered. It is not as if we have cards sitting down there, and this is above the normal number of cards we will be giving people. When the cards are ordered, as soon as we get the cards the MPs are informed. So I cannot understand and MPs know the system, so if they are saying they have no cards it is because we had no cards at the time.”
The minister said as soon as covid 19 became an issue the ministry began by giving 50 cards to MPs, followed by 47 cards, then another 100. She added that the ministry never asked the chairmen or the councillors of the corporations to take any cards.
“Where the corporations are being involved is we have asked for the Disaster Management Unit to be able to give people food hampers when they are in an emergency situation, so I cannot understand how the chairman could be asking for cards. Maybe they should liaise with their MP who is the Opposition leader in the Parliament.
“The MP for Princes Town (Barry Padarath) did not come for his cards until very recently because he was out of the country and had just abandoned his constituents. We got a letter from him indicating that somebody from his office will come for his cards, so I don’t understand why people are saying there are no cards because it is not true.”
When contacted last week Friday, Khan said he at first refused the cards because he could not do much with 50 cards. “I told them if they cannot give me 500 to 1,000 cards to give to the people of Barataria/San Juan, what will I do with 50 cards. Eventually, I did take them and I gave it to the students, but I wanted to make a point.
“They initially said come in for 50 food cards. I told them to give it to the principals to give out the cards because I don’t know the students. I knew when they gave me these cards the whole constituency would come to the office looking for food cards and we cannot give out a single food card to anybody who was not on the list.”
Khan said after he expressed his displeasure, he was given another 100 cards which he gave to the people. “She (Robinson-Regis) could say what she wants, but I cannot work with 50 food cards.”
The School Feeding Programme falls under the management of the National Dietary Services Co Ltd which hires the caterers and operates according to projections. Education Minister Anthony Garcia said money is allocated for the programme during the budget for the fiscal year.
“The board projects a certain number of meals that they will serve for a particular month. With that they make a request to the Education Ministry and the ministry, in turn, will seek funding from the Finance Ministry. It is not a case that they have money there for this term and they’re not using it.”