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Panday: Parliament probe needed

By Clint Chan Tack Tuesday, March 11 2008

OPPOSITION LEADER Basdeo Panday yesterday said special parliamentary committees and a larger Parliament are required to investigate the allocation of public funds for ventures such as Caribbean Airlines’ (CA) plans to acquire a Bombardier Global XRS jet for an executive jet service, or the award of contracts to State agencies which exceed $5 million.

Panday also asked why Caricom leaders were coming to Trinidad and Tobago to discuss crime when Government has shown it is inept to deal with crime in the country. Expressing dissatisfaction with statements made by Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert and CA officials on the jet issue to date, Panday said the current parliament system does not allow for proper scrutiny of the Government’s affairs and this was why the UNC Alliance has been calling repeatedly for constitutional reform.

He explained that in order for Parliament to properly scrutinise the affairs of State-owned entities such as CA or corporate entities such as the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) it should be unicameral (one House of Parliament) and have the power to appoint committees to investigate the operations of these kinds of companies to ensure that taxpayers’ monies are being well spent. Panday lamented that this cannot be done under the current parliamentary system. The Opposition Leader added that the UNC A will continue to force Government to account on these issues both inside and outside of Parliament.

On Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s announcement that Caricom leaders will meet in Port-of- Spain next month to discuss crime and security issues, Panday scoffed: “ I don’t even think that Mr Manning knows what he’s talking about.” While agreeing that all Caricom states had shared security concerns such as combatting transnational drug and arms trafficking, Panday said he believed the Prime Minister would use this meeting to distract the population from Government’s failure to deal with the country’s crime problems.

Panday also called for Education Minister Esther Le Gendre to make public, the findings and recommendations of the review of security measures conducted after the killing of Success Laventille Composite School student Shaquille Roberts. Le Gendre said consideration was being given to a proposal from MTS for the installation of a close circuit television system (CCTVs) in schools to boost security measures already in place.

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