Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Suruj during debate on PR Bill: Beetham gunmen running workers
Gunmen have “run” corporation workers out of Beetham Gardens and the employees of some contractors working in Diego Martin have been kidnapped and held for ransom, Works Minister Suruj Rambachan said yesterday. He did so in winding up debate in the Senate on the proportional representation bill concerning the appointment of aldermen. It was passed at 3.17 am yesterday.
Outlining problems corporations faced, Rambachan said some workers who went to Beetham Estates recently to do paving were chased out by people toting guns who told them not to come to Beetham. In Diego Martin, he said, thousands of dollars in ransom were sought for contractors’ workers who were held for ransom. He said workers’ lives were threatened on the job.
He said Government had saved money on URP “ghost gangs”, in which certain people took away workers’ debit cards, cashed in their salaries, took half the money and gave the workers the other half. Rambachan said authorities had come up against “strong forces” and had taken away some of their power. He said corporations needed “mayors with guts,” like San Fernando mayor Navi Muradali, whom, he said, closed down faulty food outlets.
Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray, blaming the PNM for making local government deteriorate, said although some members of the PP had tried to convince the Prime Minister T&T was not ready for local polls because of the state local government was in, the PM had still mandated polls would be held when they were due. She said due to the PNM’s tenure, local government existed in name only and it was better “not to have consultation than spend millions as the PNM did and end up with nothing.”
Independent Senator Elton Prescott asked whether defeated candidates or those who crossed the floor would be able to be aldermen. “In another place it’s likely you can find yourself without a seat,” he added. He queried what would transpire with runners-up and whether they could be aldermen. He felt the bill was only on a nodding basis with PR and was more focused on the issue of the aldermen aspect so it should be called the “aldermen bill.”
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said he saw no problem with allowing people who lost general polls to be nominated as aldermen but it would be up to the parties. Independent Senator Anthony Viera, who supported the bill, felt a mixed PR/first-past-the-post formula was best. He wondered at the strategic intent and asked whether its benefits would be for one party for one purpose for only one day.
He did not think the touted added value was present. Saying it was a “baby step” on the issue he hoped Government made good on its promise on the bill. Viera’s colleague, Dhanayshar Mahabir, said some of the property tax should be used to assist local government and the Green Fund should be used also by Cepep and URP in that sector. He said corporations could work with schools in a beverage-container-collection effort for payment. He sanctioned police, public sector and constitutional reform.
Independent senator Dr Ayesha Edwards said 40 per cent of Tobagonians were not represented in recent THA election results. Saying she felt the bill benefitted the parties, Edwards queried why it was being presented now so close to local government elections. PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi said PR was not mentioned in Government’s local government papers.
He said the issue was being dealt with at a time the 2014 budget was in the spotlight and the “sideshow” of the St Joseph seat issue was also in the picture. He queried how parties would come up with the large number of aldermen now required at this stage, close to the polls. ”We’re passing law and figuring it out after,” he added.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.