Parliament meets today for what is described as a mere formality, to confirm Justice Paula Mae-Weekes as this country’s sixth President.
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PM’s Brazil trip draws heat
Housing and Urban Development Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday defended a decision by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to go on a private trip to Brazil with her grandson to see the 2014 Fifa World Cup final this weekend. Persad-Bissessar left for Rio de Janeiro on Monday evening and is expected to return home next week.
Moonilal was responding to Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s criticism of the visit at a time when there were many issues to address in the country, including the work disruptions at the immigration offices in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando. The workers have been protesting health and safety conditions.
Rowley said he was disappointed that the PM chose to leave the country “to watch football when there are tens of thousands of citizens who need to travel for a variety of serious, urgent and desperate reasons, who cannot keep their plans or conduct their business because the Government has failed to deliver the basic services of the immigration and passport offices.” But Moonilal said the trip was not hastily arranged but was planned in advance.
Accepting that there were pressing domestic matters affecting the country, Moonilal said: “In a way there will always be pressing domestic matters at any time, given the nature of the job as Prime Minister and given the developments in the country. “Those matters are being addressed in a very strong manner by acting Prime Minister Errol Mc Leod and his team.” He said those matters would be amicably resolved in time.
Moonilal, who is one of the deputy leaders of the UNC, said Persad-Bissessar “like anybody else deserves the opportunity to spend quality time with her family.” He said Rowley’s comment was divisive and hypocritical as he, Rowley, was about to embark on a foreign private trip. Moonilal said Rowley frequently travelled abroad to play golf. Moonilal said the PM’s trip was “clearly a good, short vacation” with her family.
Also commenting on the issue, Works and Infrastructure Minister Suruj Rambachan said the Prime Minister was capable of paying for her own private trips. Responding to questions on who was paying for the PM’s current Brazil trip, if she personally paid, if someone else paid — and if so who— Rambachan said: “At the PM’s press conference on Monday, she said it was a private trip and government wasn’t paying. Taxpayers’ funds were not used, she pays for private trips.”
Communication Minister Vasant Bharath in a statement yesterday criticised Rowley for trying to score cheap political points by claiming the Prime Minister had abandoned her role to attend football games. He said the PM had acted decisively on the immigration issue and through the intervention of the Labour Minister, Errol Mc Leod, an injunction was obtained restraining the PSA from shutting down public offices.
“It is for this reason that the Prime Minister also assured the nation that she will exercise every resource available in ensuring the rights of citizens are not compromised. There is no room for negotiation on that,” he added.
World leaders invited to final
The “Economic Times “reported Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to watch the World Cup final but there wasn’t confirmation if Modi was attending. The paper stated that if Modi did, he would be in the company of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma who converge in Forteleza, Brazil, for the Brazil/Russia/India/China and South Africa (BRICSA) summit on July 15 to 17.
Rousseff is reported to have invited those particular leaders to the match. There was no mention of a similar invitation for T&T to attend.