NAPARIMA MP Rodney Charles told Newsday on Wednesday that most MPs in TT would wish to emulate New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who took a 20 per cent pay cut for six months last year to show solidarity with compatriots hit by covid19. Her Cabinet ministers taking a ten per cent cut.
Newsday had asked about Toco/Sangre Grande MP Roger Monroe's promise on Tuesday to donate three months' salary to help needy constituents.
Charles remarked, "It's a good idea. A lot of us have been quietly donating from our salaries. But if there was a need for a public indication, I would do it."
He has distributed 600 Namdevco food baskets, with 100 more to give.
"We are looking at establishing soup kitchens. We will write to the Commissioner of Police to get permission to give out food, free.
"A lot of people are complaining that even if they get hampers, the question of getting propane and what-not to cook the food is a problem."
He explained, "It's reaching a stage of destitution now. People are at their wits' end. A lady is telling me we gave out cassava, but she has a three-year-old and with just cassava and water, she has to find a way to feed the child."
In the case of Venezuelan migrants, he said, "We have to find ways of helping them. They do not have ID cards and so are not eligible for Namdevco hampers.
"We are willing to do whatever is needed to help our constituents. But it must be planned, structured and co-ordinated."
He stressed, however, "We cannot live life while other people are suffering."
Charles wanted to help, while staying within the law against congregating in light of covid19.
Newsday asked if people in need might avoid his soup kitchen if they felt it was undignified.
"We have given out 600 hampers and have not taken pictures of people receiving, so we understand. We will guarantee them their privacy.
"Right now it's a case of so many people are suffering that food takes place before pride."
Charles said he may run six soup kitchens at local places of worship in his Naparima constituency.
He believed other MPs would wish to follow the New Zealand example, as he urged the Prime Minister to show leadership on this issue.
"We have a crisis and all of us want to help, once it is in a structured way."
While he was not empowered to speak on this matter on behalf of the UNC, hebelieved all MPs would rally round if Dr Rowley were to call for 20 per cent of each MP's salary to be donated towards helping people in dire need.
"I cannot see any MP in good conscience objecting to that request. That is leadership we need at this time. But we are not getting it.
"All of us are willing to do what is necessary to help our fellow men.We cannot live and eat while they are suffering. I cannot see any MP today not agreeing to that, given what they are witnessing in their constituencies.
"When you called, I thought it was somebody calling for help. I got 20 calls already for today."
Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis told Newsday she was working with agencies including her constituency office to get hampers to needy constituents, but could not afford to donate her salary.
"I'm giving what the Government is providing, and we have also been able to provide other hampers from constituents who have been willing to donate. At my constituency office we have also made donations of hampers. It's a combination.
"So, no, I am not donating my salary, because I can't afford to."
She reiterated, "We are providing government support. We are also providing hampers we have got from groceries and other persons who have been willing to donate, and as a constituency office we have also been donating, using our own resources."
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) minority leader Watson Duke also called for public officials to donate to those they represent, in a recent Facebook "live" broadcast. Saying some people can't afford even peas, he said over the past year of the pandemic, the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and President had each earned remuneration of over $1 million.
"All persons whose remuneration package is upwards of $20,000, I am challenging you to donate $20,000 every month. This month I, Watson Solomon Duke, will be donating $10,000."
He said he would donate $5,000 in Tobago and $5,000 in Trinidad, to help people buy basic food items, and would help anyone facing hunger, regardless of nationality.
"I'll help anyone, because covid has locked us all in."
He will take names of applicants and allocate aid according to a raffle system. He said his $12,000 THA salary was "dog chow money," but could still help people.
"What people want is money! Food!
"We are going into a month of total lockdown. How do we ensure our fellow men live to see another month?"