Opposition boycotts Parliament over covid19 fears

Minister of Planning and Development  Camille Robinson-Regis speaks to the media during a press conference at the Parliament Meeting Room at the Red House, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, on Friday. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis speaks to the media during a press conference at the Parliament Meeting Room at the Red House, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, on Friday. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

LEADER of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar led her MPs to boycott of Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives over fears of covid19 following the Prime Minister’s recent positive diagnosis, and fears that MPs could become super-spreaders of the virus. However, House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis accused the Opposition of playing politics as she claimed parliamentary protocols in the pandemic meant MPs faced very little risk of infection.

Both sides agreed the main issue in the Opposition’s absence was not their disdain for the Anti-Gang Bill 2021 whose passage on Friday was a foregone conclusion, but rather the covid19 issue.

Robinson-Regis at a briefing in the Red House lashed out at an “irresponsible Opposition” whom she said were trying to “make a political point” over Dr Rowley’s diagnosis, but which she said would fall flat.

“They have sent a letter to the Speaker saying they have concerns about covid and the Prime Minister has tested positive for covid.

“Let me say that all the persons with whom the Prime Minister has been in contact, in the normal fashion of the contact tracing, that has been done. Any person who needed to be quarantined or who needed to have any kind of medical attention has received same. So there is no way that anybody in the Parliament has been exposed.”

She said Parliament has been “extremely careful” over covid19, with a limited number of MPs, officials and staff allowed in the chamber and with a reduced speaking time per MP and with general covid19 protocols.

She accused the Opposition of a “political gambit” that fell flat on its face.

Accusing the Opposition of a record of negligent words and conduct over covid19, she claimed they did not care if TT “goes to hell in a hand basket” once they did not control Government.

Robinson-Regis said two weeks ago, Opposition whip David Lee, was seen sniffling in the chamber, to which the Opposition sought reassurance about him but did not absent themselves.

She said the Opposition’s absence could partly be owing to their reluctance over the Anti-Gang Bill, but this was not their main reason as the bill did not need a special majority to be passed.

Robinson-Regis said Lee had written the Speaker indicating his concerns but had never indicated Opposition MPs would be absent.

Persad-Bissessar at a briefing at her Port of Spain office justified the boycott by alleging the Government was breaking its own laws, section 12 of the coronavirus regulations #7, which empowers the Health Minister to segregate and isolate a person who was exposed to infection who, in turn, was likely to suffer from the virus.

Saying Lee’s April 7 letter to Parliament querying covid safety after the PM’s positive diagnosis had got no reply up until 12.30 pm on Friday, she said the Opposition opted to stay away.

She gave reporters copies of each of her MPs’ letters requesting a leave of absence from the sitting.

Persad-Bissessar said individuals at Rowley’s briefing two Saturday’s ago should now be in isolation, including Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram.

“There is one law for them and one law for everyone else,” she alleged.

Persad-Bissessar feared for the safety of parliament staff and of people served by MPs, if covid19 was spread in Parliament.

Asked about the AG complaining of Lee’s sniffles, Lee recalled saying he had told the House he had tested negative.

Newsday contacted top ministers who might have been at risk of contraction from Rowley and asked if they have been tested for covid19.

Minister of National Security Stuart Young said, “I have been tested. I am negative for covid19.”

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly replied, “No need exists for me to take a covid test at this time.” Newsday asked if she was identified as a contact during the contact-tracing for the PM’s case. Gadsby-Dolly replied, “No.”

Newsday asked Robinson-Regis if she has taken a covid test since PM’s diagnosis. She replied, “No I have not.”

Asked if she or any Cabinet member was identified as a contact in the PM’s contract tracing, she replied, “I was not.”

Newsday got no reply to similar queries sent to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga, and could not contact Deyalsingh.


"Opposition boycotts Parliament over covid19 fears"

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