The Government would not be under immediate pressure to build houses if Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal distributes the 9,000 houses which the PNM left in an advanced stage, PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds said yesterday. Speaking at a media conference Hinds deemed as "immoral" the Government's move to bulldoze farmers' crops at Chaguanas and D'Abadie to make way for housing projects. Hinds said UNC, in Opposition, had strongly condemned the PNM administration for similar action and the UNC/People's Partnership Government was doing "precisely the same thing." Hinds added: "We had left 9,000 houses in advanced stages, ready for purchase or tenancy by HDC clients, and I'd have thought that they would be working hastily to distribute these. But instead they are dismantling them as we've seen them do with Victoria Keyes, in Diego Martin." "Housing Minister Moonilal should be busying himself to make those houses available to people and maybe then there would not be that immediate pressure to build houses."
Hinds said: "I read with interest where a media house published that 800 units were being sacrificed for four farmers, but when farmers produce, it's not just four of them benefiting alone from their produce, or only 3,200 people-it's the nation that benefits from their produce." Hinds said the nation was "resounding" in its anger at the situation regarding the farmers, considering the Government's stated policy on food security. He said there would always be challenges regarding land use as space became limited. He said past PNM governments had brought agricultural lands into residential use, including in St James, St Clair, and other places-as the population grew-and also at Pt Lisas for industrial purposes. He said the UNC also converted 160 Oropune acres.
Hinds added: "But we're concerned about the immorality of this particular situation, since when we decided how we would use land they were strong in their condemnation of it and now despite promised new policy, they're doing exactly the same thing. "Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath in Opposition strongly condemned the PNM and he's now having difficulty with the issue and objecting from within the Cabinet." Hinds called for Bharath to resign from the Cabinet after disagreeing with Moonilal on the land issue. He also called for Labour Minister Errol McLeod to resign after McLeod's MSJ condemned the bulldozing.
Citing section 75 (1) of the Constitution on collective responsibility, Hinds said Cabinet members should speak with one voice. Hinds said when former PNM Labour Minister Larry Achong had disagreed with an issue, Achong had left the Cabinet. Calling on the Prime Minister to ensure Section 75 (1) was adhered to, Hinds said if she did not act, the PM would be "contributing to an abuse of the constitution and disrespect for collective responsibility." Asked about resigning, Bharath said yesterday that ministerial appointments were the prime minister's prerogative. McLeod, when asked if he would resign, also said: "Mr Hinds and his PNM small maxi don't impress me at all."