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UNC protests for hospital

Published: 
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Traffic pile up as...
Anti government protesters make their way along the Solomon Hochoy Highway to the Couva Children’s Hospital, yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

For the first time since it was commissioned in 2015 the Couva Children’s Hospital was abuzz with activity yesterday, as protesters gathered at the entrance calling on Government to open the $1.5 billion facility.

Although the protesters marched from the Preysal Recreation Ground to the hospital under the close watch of Central Division and Highway Patrol officers, there was heavy “maco” traffic congestion for over 90 minutes.

Leading close to 500 people during the march, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar noted an excerpt from the Welch Report on the regional health authorities which stated the hospital was a “fact of life” and should be utilised. As she called for the report to be made public, she said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh must also state the cost of preparing the document and list the members of the Welch committee.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said Government was reviewing proposals for the operation of the hospital that could attract regional clientèle.

Yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said the Government must make a commitment that no citizen would have to pay to use the hospital.

“While the Government is speaking of public/private partnership, they must give the assurance that the hospital, built with the money of the taxpayers, the people of our country, that it will be used for the benefit of the people and children,” she said.

She also said Rowley’s labelling of their protest for the hospital’s opening and against the Brian Lara Cricket Academy was nonsensical. Rowley had labelled as “racial dotishness” the Opposition’s claim that Government wanted to include Indian batting legend Sachin Tendukar’s name on a suite at the facility as an attempt to sanitise the controversy surrounding its opening. But Persad-Bissessar said when it comes to playing the race card, Rowley was chief.

“I have listened to the Prime Minister on several occasions. It appears that when the Prime Minster cannot get his way we are reminded and guided by former prime minister Manning what happens: He descends into profanity. It was really profane language that he uses when he cannot get his own way and so he is upset about what happened.

“He is upset that there are people who are against what he is doing or not doing. Therefore what does he do, he descends into some nonsensical statement about dog whistle and racial dotishness, when in fact he is the prime dog whistle-blower when it comes to pulling the race card.”

She added: “Our concern is with that stadium and this hospital. The stadium had nothing to do with race, it was all about the safety and security of that structure so I will not go into the profanity as he had because we will continue to use the power of the people to achieve the end for the benefit of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”