PNM, ILP unite against Govt
By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, September 7 2013
THE Opposition parties in the House of Representatives last night joined forces to vote against a Government motion to approve the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and Local Government Order 2013.
While Government got the motion approved, this came after it received a severe tongue lashing from People’s National Movement (PNM) MPs and the two Independent Liberal Party (ILP) MPs Jack Warner (Chaguanas West) and Herbert Volney (St Joseph).
The drama began around 3 pm as Warner rose to speak on the Municipal Corporations Bill 2013, only to be stopped by Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal who moved that debate on the bill be temporarily suspended to debate the motion to approve the EBC Order. As PNM MPs shouted “No! No!”, Moonilal said he consulted with Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald.
“We expect to finish this matter quickly and return to the bill,” Moonilal said.
Local Government Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan moved the motion, saying the EBC report recommended the creation of the additional electoral districts of Carapo/Mammoral and St Julien/Princes Town North in the corporations of Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo and Princes Town respectively. Rambachan, who was still the Local Government Minister for yesterday’s debate, although Marlene Coudray is due to take over the portfolio after Thursday’s Cabinet reshuffle, said the EBC proposed changes in the boundaries of 16 electoral districts in four municipal corporations and 23 districts in three regional corporations. Responding to Rambachan, Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert, “I received this document yesterday (Thursday). Some of my other (PNM) members received it last night (Thursday).”
“I have not received one yet,” Warner interjected.
Saying Government received the report since July 3, 2011, Imbert declared that then Local Government (now Tourism) Minister Chandresh Sharma and Rambachan failed to act on it for two years.
“On the eve of a Local Government Election, we are told this is the deadline to pass this. That is competence? That is courtesy? That is participatory democracy?” Imbert quipped. PNM MPs thumped their desks as Imbert declared, “This is absolute contempt for this Parliament. Contempt for the population. This Government is a disgrace.”
Dismissing an earlier contribution by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran in the Municipal Corporations Bill about participatory democracy as “hollow platitudes,” Imbert said Dookeran was willing “to condone the Government of which he is a part, delivering to members of this House, a report changing the boundaries of local government districts, a day before debate.”
Imbert said the proposed changes by the EBC “will now influence the election of aldermen using a new system of proportional representation.”
As Imbert spoke, Warner was handed a copy of the report and held it high in the air for everyone to see. “It is still warm,” Warner observed. “That is Government, UNC style,” Imbert said as he continued with his contribution.
He condemned Moonilal for insisting that despite the fact “there is more than one Opposition party in this house,” there must only be one Opposition speaker in the debate on the motion.
Continuing where Imbert left off, Warner declared, “I want to apologise to this nation for having worked to foist this Government on this country.”
Declaring the way the Order was being presented was an insult to the people of Chaguanas West, Warner looked at Government MPs and declared, “If ever a man is glad he is on this side looking down on that side, I am.” He scoffed that the Local Government Minister had to be changed three times in three years on the basis of competence.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said, “I am not angry. I am not surprised. I am worried for TT.” Moonilal then asked Opposition MPs if they got an email which said an electronic copy of the Order was on the Parliament’s website. When they said they had not received the email, Moonilal said, “I am not saying that what has happened today is right.”
Rowley then scoffed: “What does that have to do it.”
He said Government should have followed the convention in these situations, and allow the report to lie, since Local Government Elections have been called for October 21.
Every Opposition MP complained about the lateness of receiving a copy, hitting it as Government’s contempt, when they rose to contribute to the debate. When the motion was put to a vote, 13 Opposition MPs—11 for PNM and the two ILP members voted against it, however Government with 22 members present approved the EBC order by a simple majority.
PNM San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning was absent on extended sick leave.