The boycott by seven UNC-held corporations of yesterday’s meeting with the Local Government Ministry and the Prime Minister, left half of Trinidad out of talks on addressing service delivery and operationalising Local Government reform soon.
The boycott was called by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday.
At a media briefing on Tuesday, Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi said the ministry’s meeting was planned with mayors, councillors, chairmen and aldermen of all 14 corporations on the operationalisation of local government law and collaboration.
Al-Rawi said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had been prepared to speak and answer queries and acting Finance Minister Allyson West and the Attorney General attended.
Arrangements to speak were made virtually and physically for Rowley, who recently tested again positive for COVID-19.
But, he said since the UNC members–representing seven corporations and half of Trinidad– boycotted and the question-and-answe segment was denied, Rowley didn’t attend.
Rowley was instead represented by Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis.
All other invitees attended and one UNC councillor from the Tunapuna/Regional Corporation also attended.
Al-Rawi, who said the event was to assist public information, added that the ministry and PM were prepared to collaborate with all and the conversation was to have been very relevant due to storms and other difficulties. He noted that operationalising of local government matters affected people hardest in their homes.
Al-Rawi cited the ministry’s recent clean-up and survey campaign, which removed 5,000 truckloads of materials and 119 acres of cutting, with over 15,000 people involved.
This also confirmed that flooding, especially in Penal/Debe, Woodlands, Caroni, was caused by unplanned developments.
“Our meeting was to directly address relief issues on funding, on manpower and attending to services being delivered,” he added.
“I don’t recall a Prime Minister making him or herself available to answer direct questions from all local government representatives. This was intended to be a first in a very long time. But unfortunately, the Opposition Leader demanded that UNC practitioners—half the country—not attend.
“Therefore, information on how we intend to operationalise local government reform wasn’t able to be given directly to them.”
Al-Rawi added, “I note the boycott was led by (Persad-Bissessar) and I’m in a sense of despair that the UNC’s Local Government practitioners have been denied proper opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion and to have faced the PM and (myself).”
He said the ministry wanted to urge T&T to demand of their representatives that everyone gets on with the business of representing the people.
Yesterday’s meeting was also important to survey the way ahead to bring lands and assets into corporations to assist residents, since the last time assets were vested in local government, was 2000.
Al-Rawi said Government will press on with further public consultations and engage trade unions.