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2016 Budget suruj

The Right to Free Speech and Represent Constituents in Parliament

The parliament of TT is the place where the Opposition not only participates only in making laws but it is a place where we bring to the attention of the government and other state agencies the issues and challenges, the problems, hopes and expectations of the citizenry. It is a place where as an Opposition we assume the vital role of a check and balance on the possible excesses of government and as well the potential abuse of power.

It is not an easy job and will at times require of us as an Opposition a level of courage and forthrightness that may not be pleasant but necessary with having to confront a government which from day stated that they were in charge and that we will have to deal with that. We have since then seen the contempt with which the Opposition has been treated.

We have seen the removal of the need for special majorities to pass legislation which infringes upon the rights of the citizen. We have noted the daily decline in the economy of the country, the rise in murders and the rise in unemployment over the last twenty months of PNM Rowley led governance. We have witnessed the decline in the provision of health care with the health sector not being able to provide quality and reliable services in addition to a crisis with drug availability, broken down equipment and a shortage of medical personnel. Public institutions are not only failing but have more or less collapsed including the Judiciary.

The level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in all parts of the country is growing. Businesses are under pressure and there are an increasing number of closures. The list of properties for sale by mortgage financiers is growing judging by the lists which are now being published in the newspapers.

The most recent flood deluge which has affected almost 100,000 citizens and has brought about severe losses was the cause of a matter of urgent public importance being brought to the parliament for debate. It was debated for a period of one hour during which the comment “racist” emanated from the government side while MP Barry Padarath was speaking. I am yet to understand why such a comment should have been made by a high ranking government member.

The fact is that central and south Trinidad have been devastated by the floods and the further fact remains with clear evidence that the response of the government has been slow and ineffective. The response of the Minister of Works to the leader of the Opposition in the debate on the failure of the government to respond adequately was to say how much money was spent on box drains in Siparia between 2010 and 2015. The culture of blaming is not really an attack on the Opposition. It is an expression of poor management and of a government which is not people centered. It is about excuse management. It is about a government that has thrown in the proverbial towel and simply does not know what to do.

The PNM will be happy to have a racial divide in this country for their selfish political gains. They frequently allude to it in their comments across the floor and in their not so subtle statements. When comments like the one heard across the floor was made the role of the Speaker is to ask that such comments be withdrawn and an apology made. What can the Opposition conclude when the Speaker just did not deal with the matter. Or is it that she did not hear the comment.

Our walk out was a clear statement that we are not going to be labelled, nor unfairly and unjustifiably attacked. We have a country to represent, and a people to look after. No amount of taunting will deter us from our duty to the people.

Surujrattan Rambachan MP

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