House passes motion to end SoE

Dr Keith Rowley -
Dr Keith Rowley -

THE state of emergency (SoE) will end at midnight on Wednesday.

Hours earlier, the House of Representatives passed a motion to terminate the SoE from that time with 20 Government MPs voting for the motion and 14 Opposition MPs abstaining.

Notable absentees during the sitting were Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal. Al-Rawi, who is currently out of TT, was granted a leave of absence by House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George from November14-25. Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo was granted leave from Wednesday's sitting

Before the motion was passed, the Prime Minister bluntly dimissed repeated claims by the Opposition UNC that the SoE was being terminated because of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election on December 6.

The SoE was first imposed on May 15. The House met on May 24 to extend it to August 29 and subsequently met on August 25 to extend it further to November 29.

Under Section 10 (1) of the Constitution, the SoE can be extended, before it expires, by a simple majority vote of the House for three months. Section 10 (2) stats the SoE can be further extended from time to time, but not more than three months at any one time.

Any additional extensions need three-fifth majority votes in the House and Senate for approval. This means Opposition support for the former and for the latter, Opposition and Independent senatorial support.

The process for ending the SoE is much simpler. Section 10 (3) states, "The proclamation (of the SoE) may be revoked at any time by a simple majority vote of the House of Representatives."

Rowley said the earlier contributions in the debate by UNC MPs David Lee, Saddam Hosein, Rushton Paray and Anita Haynes had one thing in common. "They are confused and thus all the presentations that we heard so far, are in fact the presentations of people who are in fact confused."

Rowley said he did not want to be unkind to the Opposition. "I guess they had to come here to say something." He reminded MPs that the end of the SoE meant the end of the daily 10 pm to 5 am curfew, designed to limit the movement of people in public during that period.

But the UNC want people to believe that they campaign for elections between 10 pm and 5 am. "Absolute dotishness. Everybody knows...those who are canvassing for any political party...especially the soon as sunset kicks end your canvassing..nobody canvasses in the night."

This is not something the UNC would know. "You (UNC) don't engage in canvassing. You appeal to race and religion and your party sticks for that." Annisette-George overruled claims from Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh that Rowley was imputing improper motive against the UNC.

"An election is taking place in Tobago. You (UNC) take no part in it. You hide behind the PDP." Rowley said the UNC cannot find a single candidate to contest a THA election but claim to know about canvassing in Tobago. "You come and disturb people's psyche with nonsense. There is no canvassing in Tobago, taking place in the night."

Rowley claimed the UNC got a friend in the media to write this a newspaper editorial. He hoped there would be an elevation of thinking in TT. Rowley reminded Hosein of a previous debate in the House when he claimed that people lived in the Main Ridge in Tobago. Recalling what Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe told him then "nobody lives there", Rowley said, "Nobody canvasses there in the night." He thought Hosein would have learnt from his previous experience to stay away from Tobago elections.

"Now I have to tell him at night in Tobago...nobody canvasses there." Tobagonians also fall under the public health regulations, regardless of whether there is an SoE or not. The regulations currently only allow a maximum of ten people to gather in public.

Rowley dismissed UNC MPs' defence of the public health regulations as hypocritical. "To speak about the public health ordinance in such a loving and caring would not believe it is the same public health ordinance that they fought tooth and nail, at the beginning of the and out of the court house...suing left, right and centre, to say that we should not use the same public health ordinance to respond to the covid issue."

He recalled the UNC openly demanded an SoE, even before the Government implemented it on May15. "Exactly what they asked for..they got. You give it to them. They don't want it." Rowley reiterated that Government has done and continues to do all it can to protect the population during the pandemic. He lamented the UNC never made a genuine effort to form a united front with the Government to combat the pandemic.

In a motion on the adjournment, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh rejected a claim by Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran that the recent surge in covid19 cases was because of people beiong infected in covid19 safe zones.

"From an epidemiological point of view, safe zones have succeeded." Deyalsingh said to date, there has been no report of a cluster or clusters of covid19 infections in any safe zone. "This hogwash about the safe zones not being safe to date, is simply to verify or try to verify his (Seecheran's) political leader's (Persad-Bissessar) fallacy that the safe zones were going to fail."

Deyalsingh criticised Seecheran for not saying the first case of the delta variant in TT was on August 11 (and was imported. He reminded MPs the first case of local delta spread was September 20 and the safe zones were implemented on October 11.

On Seecharan's call for antigen testing, Deyalsingh said 19,800 of these tests have taken place to date, free of charge. "Leadership in difficult times is difficult for some people. There is a saying...either lead...follow..or get out of the way."


"House passes motion to end SoE"

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