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Mark stops Govt grab for Red House project
An attempt by Government to take over the oversight responsibility for the Red House renovation project has met with strong objection from the Parliament and the move was rescinded. This was revealed in Parliament yesterday during debate on the Second Report of the Joint Select committee on Parliamentary Accommodation.
It was was presented by the chairman of the JSC, Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz. Opposition MP Colm Imbert, in his contribution to the short debate, said the Government was trying to to take over responsibility for the multi-million-dollar project, which is being managed by the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott).
“It has come to my attention that someone in the Cabinet has decided to remove from the Parliament the responsibility for the oversight function for parliamentary accommodation, Mr Speaker,” Imbert said. He said that was based on a Cabinet note he had in his possession. Imbert said the proposal called for “the removal of the oversight function from the Speaker and also the members of this House.”
The former works and transport minister told legislators that move “was a grave error.” This prompted Speaker Wade Mark to rise to “correct the records.” Mark said: “That matter of the Speaker being in charge of the oversight committee is maintained.” He added: “I want to give the House the assurance that that position is maintained.”
In response to claims from Government MPs that he was wrong in his assumption, Imbert stressed: “It is a fact that someone tried to take away the oversight function from this Parliament. That is a fact, and the Parliament put its foot down.” Imbert went on: “We on this side support the Parliament in having the conduct of its own affairs and we reject any attempt by this Government to remove from the Speaker or from the Parliament oversight function of Parliament buildings.”
An independent source also confirmed a note was taken to the Cabinet recently seeking to have the executive and its agencies assume the oversight responsibility for the project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2015. During the debate, Mark cautioned Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma for certain remarks he made against Imbert. Sharma was asked to withdraw the comment, which he immediately did.
Earlier, the Children Bill was passed after debate on the amendments made by the Senate. Gender Affairs, Youth and Child Development Minister Verna St Rose-Greaves said it was a great day for the people of T&T. The bill is expected to be proclaimed shortly and as a consequence provided protection for children from the incidence of abuse.
The bill was supported by all 36 MPs (Government and Opposition) present. Also Earlier, Imbert said despite the flaws of the bill, the Opposition said it would support the legislation in the interest of the children of the nation. St Rose-Greaves said any problems or loopholes in the legislation will be dealt with as the need arises.
Meanwhile late yesterday evening Opposition MP Colm Imbert was asked to leave the Chamber shortly before its scheduled conclusion. The matter stemmed from a decision by Imbert to display a picture during the sitting. Speaker Mark cautioned against the move and later asked Imbert to leave the chamber. He obliged.
The House was later adjourned to a date to be fixed. Parliament is expected to be prorogued on June 26. The new session will begin two weeks later, House Leader Dr Roodal Moonilal said.
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