Independent senator: Trinis perceived as lawless, misbehaved

Hazel Thompson-Ahye -
Hazel Thompson-Ahye -

INDEPENDENT Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye claimed that recent and ongoing events in Trinidad and Tobago may have created the impression in certain quarters that its people are lawless and bad behaviour is the order of the day.

Thompson-Ahye made this claim during her contribution to the budget debate in the Senate on Tuesday. After referring to an unnamed pair of radio talk show hosts who allegedly use bad language during live broadcasts "oblivious to the fact that the children are listening," Thompson-Ahye said, "It is not only on the airwaves that we encounter intemperate language. There is an escalation in the verbal warfare everywhere. In the streets...on platforms..various podiums and in social media."

She said a budget is not only about charting a country's path forward with fiscal and physical infrastructure. "It is also about building a society and a people."

In what seemed to be a subtle reference to events leading up to the collapse of the Police Service Commission (PSC) last month, the failure of a merit list for candidates for commissioner of police (CoP) to be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration and related subsequent events, Thompson-Ahye said, "As we look forward the future we must be careful that the tenor of our public discourse does not evidence blatant disrespect of our leaders and cherished institutions."

She warned, "It would be a supreme irony if under the guise of seeking to uphold and preserve our sacred institutions..we desecrate and destroy those very institutions."

Thompson-Ahye said the words of William Shakespeare were relevant to this situation when in his play Julius Caesar he quoted Mark Antony saying judgment has "fled to brutish beasts."

She said equally relevant were the words of the prophet Isaiah.

"The prophet Isaiah said what perversity is this, these people approach me only in words, honour me only with lip service but their hearts are far from me." Thompson- Ahye added, "I pray to have Isaiah's faith."

She also said some of her friends in other Caribbean countries are baffled why there is opposition by some people in TT towards paying property tax.

Thompson-Ahye said, in recent conversations with friends in Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana to announcements of property tax payments in each of those countries, she learnt people in those countries had no problem paying those taxes.

She said her Jamaican friend went so far as to say, "You Trinis are a set of lawless people." Thompson-Ahye told senators, " Well, I cut the conversation short."

Thompson-Ahye said successive governments have kicked property tax down the road over the years.

"Neither wanted to score a goal for this country but to win votes from the electorate. The day of reckoning is here."

Thompson-Ahye said people would react differently if Government presented it differently.

"If the Government were to announce Carnival were to be held in 2022, some of the very people who say they cannot pay property tax..they will start to jump around..they will fall down on the ground..they will be in all the all-inclusive fetes."

Saying there will never be a "right time" for property tax, Thompson-Ahye suggested Government consider concessions to people who pay the tax early while ensuring the calculation of the tax is fair. Recalling an incident where she found out a government official pays less tax on his property that she does on hers, Thompson-Ahye said, "That is a wrong that needs to be put right. I am watching and waiting."

'Don't forget Mr Covid'

With all that is taking place in TT, Thompson-Ahye said people should not forget about covid19.

"Mr Covid came knocking at our door in 2020. Though we tried our utmost to keep him out, Mr Covid barged in. He took up residence...permanently evicted from their homes 1600 of my fellow men and women and now he has invited his delta cousins."

Thompson-Ahye said, "As we continue to battle the real enemy of this country, I thank the stalwarts of the health ministry for their sterling service."

She praised Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh for being indefatigable throughout the pandemic. "I wish to thank him for all he has done for the nation's health. He did not sign up for this you know."

While many things are not perfect in TT, Thompson-Ahye said people must acknowledge the Government is doing some good things. She said until she participated in a recent virtual event, she had no idea about the "millions of dollars of trade that have come into our nation's coffers" thanks to the Trade and Industry Minister.

She said Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and her ministry's officials are unfairly criticised because people do not know what they are doing on their behalf.

"Her light has been hidden under a bushel."

Thompson-Ahye welcomed the "fresh wind" that Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales brought to the ministry, concerted efforts to deal with issues at WASA and TTEC and a more courteous approach by the ministry's agencies to the public.

'Last Sunday, shortly after I put three dishes into the oven, the electricity supply failed. I was livid. If I was so inclined, I would have offered an expletive."

Thompson-Ahye said not only was she grateful that electricity was restored quickly but that TTEC sent personnel into her area to apologise to residents for the power failure. But she said the service from TSTT leaves much to be desired.

While there are many roads that need repairing, Thompson-Ahye thanked Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan for the efforts being made by his ministry in that regard.

"Driving along the East-West Corridor that I do daily, is much less frustrating than it was before." She suggested that traffic there moves more quickly than on the Priority Bus Route.

Saying that she did not agree with Finance Minister Colm Imbert all the time, Thompson-Ahye wondered whether the PNM's 23-18 and 22-19 general election victories on September 7, 2015 and August 10, 2020 were convincing mandates from the population.

Regardless of what people may think about this, Thompson-Ahye said, "This government did win a mandate to govern and has been doing so." She added, "How well have we been served. That's a matter for debate."

Government senator Yokymma Bethelmy said, "No one spreads more fake news than the Opposition. As she listed measures in the budget for agriculture, entrepreneurship and youth development, Bethlemy urged citizens to ignore claims made by the UNC against the government and calls by people attempting to discourage covid19 vaccination.

She said both the UNC and anti-vaxxers rely solely on Tik Tok, Facebook and other platforms which are unreliable sources of information, to mislead the public. Bethlemy scoffed at UNC's description of itself as the alternative government.

"You can't even be a proper opposition."


"Independent senator: Trinis perceived as lawless, misbehaved"

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