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$3.2 M spent on Family Day

By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, January 11 2014

click on pic to zoom in
David Rudder...
David Rudder...

NATIONAL Security Minister, Gary Griffith, yesterday disclosed the ministry spent a total of $3.2 million to host a Laventille Family Day at the Queen’s Park Savannah in November 2012, under his immediate predecessor Jack Warner.

In making this disclosure in the House of Representatives, Griffith said within this sum, thousands of dollars were paid to artistes like Bunji Garlin and the Asylum Band, David Rudder, Black Stalin and Singing Sandra, for the entertainment they provided at that event.

As he began his response to a question filed by Laventille West MP, Nileung Hypolite, about the Family Day, Speaker Wade Mark asked Griffith: “Will it be a very long answer?” Griffith said his response was 15 pages long. After Mark suggested to the House that Griffith make a brief statement, and then circulate the rest of his documents to MPs, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said Griffith could give the cost of the event “which is succinct” and then circulate the rest of his answer.

However Government Chief Whip, Dr Roodal Moonilal countered: “ Members of the Opposition have exercised their right under the Standing Orders to ask a question.” Saying the Government cannot tell any MP “how to ask their question, and what to say,” Moonilal said Griffith did extensive preparations to reply to Hypolite and “we would like to hear the answer.”

As Mark allowed him to proceed, a hesitant Griffith replied: “Thank you Mr Speaker. I think.”

In outlining the components of the $3.2 million bill for the Family Day, Griffith said artistes like Bunji Garlin and the Asylum Band, David Rudder, Black Stalin, Singing Sandra, Karene Asche and JJ and Friends were paid sums of $89,336; $29,552.85; $12,000; $7,000; $5,000 and $5,750 respectively for their performances.

Griffith said a total of 38 entities provided various services at the event. Among them were the Woodbrook based Ross Advertising which was paid $299,761. 32 for media and marketing and the National Carnival Commission, which was paid $29,200 for electrical and plumbing works.

He later told Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox that no service provider from Laventille was hired to work at the Family Day. Mark interrupted Griffith again, advising him that had he known his response would be so long, he would have advised him to submit the answer for written response. Griffith concluded his response in four minutes, stating the event was “not meant to be a recruitment drive” and he was satisfied it will strengthen the relationship between law enforcement agencies and citizens “to reduce crime in embattled areas.”

Earlier in the sitting, Griffith reiterated it cost $6.9 million to retrieve the wreckage of a fire tender which crashed in Blanchisseuse on November 17, 2012. When Rowley asked Griffith for further clarification about the costs, Griffith said Warner was minister at the time and he should answer the question. Rowley asked Mark if it was a new approach for Government to tell the Opposition to ask “somebody outside of the Government” for an answer which is directed to the Government.

“As you know the Chair does not have the power to direct a minister how to answer a question. Until we amend our Standing Orders to effect that measure. I will have to take the answer that has been given from the Honourable Member,” Mark replied. A motion to approve the First Report of the Standing Orders Committee, to amend the existing Standing Orders, was listed on the Supplemental Order Paper, in Moonilal’s name, for debate. No indication was given during the sitting as to when this motion would be debated.

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