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Glen defends Ministry treat

By SEAN DOUGLAS Sunday, February 3 2013

MINISTER of the People and Social Development, Dr Glen Ramadharsingh has hit back at Diego Martin Central MP, Dr Amery Brown, for criticising him for spending an alleged $700,000 to treat the ministry’s staff to “one night of dining” at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain. Both men spoke in last Wednesday’s Senate debate on the Finance Bill 2013 at Tower D of the International Financial Centre, Port-of-Spain.

Ramadharsingh hit Brown’s figures as “false and malicious” and his remarks as “a disgrace”. The Minister said the cost was not $700,000, but was about $500,000, and that this sum paid to treat 1,200 Ministry staff.

“I know for a fact that treating the workers of the Social Welfare Department who devolve this service to the clients, 365 days per year is not a crime. It is a sign of appreciation.”

Ramadharsingh said the function was not planned by him but by the Ministry’s public servants, including the Chief Technical Officer, the Permanent Secretary, and the Deputy Permanent Secretary.

He again hit Brown, saying, “That is a disgrace, that is something a politician must never reduce themselves to, to attack the people who would work for small incomes and serve the people on long hours...”.

He said Brown’s remarks were an attack on the Ministry’s staff.

“When you get up in this very dignified House and attack the public servants of Trinidad and Tobago — the social workers, attack the TT Card officers, when they attack the social welfare offices, the people who work hard and long hours, they attack the Corporate Communications Unit, they attack the Social Displacement Unit, they attack the Poverty Reduction Unit - they are saying you do not deserve to be treated,” said Ramadharsingh.

You treated all kinds of artistes, you treated persons who were ‘community leaders’ in the hotels of Trinidad and Tobago, so why can we not treat the social worker who attends to the differently-abled, who attends to the pensioner, who attends to the weak, the sick, the infirm, the needy, who do it for small incomes, and deserve a day in the best hotel in Trinidad and Tobago to have a dinner with their colleagues?”

He said his Ministry staff “deserve a day in the best hotel in Trinidad and Tobago to have a dinner with their colleagues”. He said his staff serve 78,000 pensioners, 51,000 differently-abled persons and 38,000 persons who access public assistance, and that Brown’s remarks were an affront to all these beneficiaries.

Ramadharsingh again alleged that Brown’s remarks had insulted those staff who had planned the event. “Politicians should attack policy. They can attack the manner in which things happened, but when they come to the level where they begin to attack the senior public servants who plan a function for the workers of a Ministry, it is a crying shame, and it is somewhere that a politician, no matter how desperate, should never reduce himself to.”

Ramadharsingh said the cost was covered by an official budgetary allocation first mooted in a 1995 Cabinet note.

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