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President of Local Content Chamber: Contractors facing economic apartheid
Under the guise of government to government arrangements economic apartheid is being practiced against local workers and contractors. That is the claim by President of the T&T Local Content Chamber TTLCC Lennox Sirjuesingh who complained about an influx of foreign contractors and workers for major infrastructural projects across the country. Speaking at the TTLCC’s annual awards ceremony at Linx Suites Restaurant, San Fernando, Sirjuesingh called for more opportunities for locals.
“As the TTLCC, we face the vexing question of undue foreign labour, contractors and goods, which we can supply in both quality and quantity,” he told the audience which included San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein and Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. Sirjuesingh said on his way to the awards ceremony, he drove past a dormitory at the Ato Boldon Stadium and another almost opposite, at the Couva Hospital construction site, both housing Chinese labourers.
“And if you tip toe here you’ll see yet another at the Debe University,” he added. He praised the T&T Guardian and reporter Radhica Sookraj for exposing SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian firm chosen to design, finance and build the Penal Hospital, which is facing allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption on several projects in Canada, Algeria, Bangladesh and Libya.
Sirjuesingh said the reports had put a halt to further “foreign invasion” for the the proposed Penal and Arima hospital construction projects. He said: “The Mandela in us demands that we fight against it (economic apartheid). Local content is a right of our citizens and we need at every opportunity to ensure this most desirable means is adhered to. “I call on the national community to join with us as we pursue with passion our rightful piece of the economic pie. The end is national development resulting in greater peace and security.”
Sirjuesingh said 2013 had been the year of local content legislation. “We now have a Draft Procurement Bill being discussed with us, along with the tremendous efforts of the JCC, TTMA, TT Chamber and Transparency Institute, to name a few. Mandela was not alone. Our united voice reflects the voice of the people. “We are to be as vigilant as possible to ensure that the Procurement Bill, as legislated, shall be monitored, evaluated, assessed, amended, as necessary,” he said.
Sirjuesingh said the latest Perception of Corruption report by Transparency International, which shows that T&T is perceived as being more corrupt than a year ago, is enough to spark national outrage. He called on members of the Chamber to help weed out corruption. “If there is the Mandela in you, trade unions, all NGO’s, churches, lead peaceful, legal and effective campaigns towards eliminating economic injustice.
“Make this your pledge and keep this years’ resolution to live the legacy of Mandela,” he said. At the function, the Founding Father award was presented to energy expert and strategist Anthony PaulPaul Samlalsingh, EIA Manager, TOSL and Assistant Secretary, TTLCC, was named Director of the Year.
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