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Back To The House
Not everyone might have been as happy as some PP MPs to be back in the House of Representatives yesterday. Certainly not PNM MP Colm Imbert who fumed that he had to leave his gondola (in Italy) and cut short his August vacation to return to debate Financial Intelligence Unit legislation so Government could get a passing grade from a Financial Action Task Force inspection team.
Or probably, demoted minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin who’s been bumped from her former PP front bench seat to the boondocks of the back bench—behind the Opposition row. And certainly there was a particular sternness in the tone of House Speaker Wade Mark close to noon when he warned MPs that they had agreed to the Parliament’s Independence ball—held last night at the Hilton—and he was therefore taking the morning debate session through the lunch period to facilitate an early ending.
But the light moments of reconvening after vacation were also there. Newly-wed PP MP Stacy Roopnarine-Lyder modestly displayed her (rock of a) wedding ring. PP’s Nizam Baksh, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and Nela Khan were rainbows of colour in traditional Eastern wear for the upcoming Eid celebration and new Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma elicited a round of laughter when he rose by mistake to present reports for the Local Government Ministry (which he left in June).
If his party has clashed with the coalition’s UNC majority partner on recent issues, COP leader Prakash Ramadhar’s new seat on the government front bench may indicate a more settled COP posture since Ramadhar has been shifted quite a few seats up the PP row and was sitting next to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan at yesterday’s session. (Indeed, he’s also obtained a constitutional reform portfolio which might have been expected to be in Ramlogan’s jurisdiction.)
None of the leaders were present during the morning session though. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar didn’t show until the afternoon period and PNM leader Keith Rowley, not at all. Or former leader Patrick Manning, either. Even though his San Fernando East seat was conspicuously empty yesterday, the recuperating Manning was still remembered, at least by AG Ramlogan who tried for points on divisions when he teased PNM MPs that they had forgotten their colleague’s (66th) birthday yesterday. Ramlogan slipped in the comment on Manning after PNM’s Marlene McDonald, in paying tribute to late MP Kelvin Ramnath, said his demise called for MPs to pay attention to their health.
Manning, who has extended his parliamentary sick leave to October 24, will miss the upcoming presentation of the 2012-2013 budget—expected by the end of September—from Finance Minister Larry Howai and the ensuing debate. Yesterday in Rowley’s absence, it was PNM’s Imbert who led the Opposition arguments in debate. Imbert is also the Opposition’s chief representative on most of the parliamentary committees announced yesterday for the new session.
Opposition concern about Government’s tardiness in attending to the FIU issue—which required MPs to break the parliamentary recess—may be followed by a similar concern whether this portends a trend for the upcoming session. Or whether the administration, now featuring a revamped Cabinet profile, will try for a tighter approach in presenting, amending and having legislation become effective.
The role of Government MPs is already set to fall under extra scrutiny in the period ahead as a result of the PP’s $410 million Constituency Development Fund, which the Opposition is suspicious may be channelled into backing PP electioneering next year.
Outside of any such activity, the administration had a chance to shore up its political stocks when it was tested in the past week to deal with the challenges of speedily honouring T&T’s Olympic golden boy, Keshorn Walcott, as well as speedily grapple with the fall-out of last weekend’s torrential rains. Both occurred over the same period.
But even in the brightness of the Olympic gold moment and the darkness of the flood disaster which hit west Trinidad, Government still played a supporting role to the vintage Trini spirit which emerged in both situations. The celebration over T&T’s Olympic performance particularly also seemed to have gone global. At Wednesday’s summer concert series held by the Today show at New York’s Rockefeller Plaza, a red-white and-black T&T flag was waved lustily stageside by a very Trini-looking lady, as T&T-born singer Nicky Minaj cavorted. Also being waved was a Jamaican flag.
A week after the Olympics and with the golden plaudits of T&T and Jamaica at the Games, it was clear the hometown pride for T&T (and Jamaica) was going on well beyond T&T still.
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