“I’m like the Hulk.”
That was Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s grinning confession yesterday as he responded to UNC MP Fazal Karim’s queries during yesterday’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC) scrutiny of 2020 Budget items for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
Imbert, in Parliament, made the comparison between himself and the comic book/movie character, telling the Opposition he was always paying attention and, “I’m like the Hulk....” he declared.
That remark (and grin) was one of the lighter moments coming from Imbert whom SFC chairman Bridgid Annisette-George had to caution frequently on how he replied to the Opposition.
Imbert and UNC MPs found all kinds of ways to accuse each other of being “rude”—and nobody was calling it “Tobago Love.”
Almost a quarter of the time spent on the THA was devoted to Imbert’s tussling with UNC MPs, mainly Ramona Ramdial and Dr Tim Gopeesingh. He focused on Ramdial particularly when she probed items in detail. Imbert also became frustrated with Gopeesingh whom he said wasn’t listening,
“This is the 16th time I’ve told you that THA or government can’t fill public officers’ posts and only Service Commissions can do that,” he replied on Gopeesingh’s query about vacant posts.
“You’re playing for the (Parliament channel) cameras,” Imbert declared.
“Can you stop talking foolishness, you’re pathetic!” Gopeesingh retorted.
“You’re insulting—you’re insulting me,” Imbert replied.
“You’re rude and arrogant—I’m fed up of that,” Gopeesingh complained.
“You’re playing the victim,” Imbert told him.
SFC chairman Annisette-George advised both to proceed in a more respectful manner and without personal opinion, “Trade that in another place,” she warned, “It’s (SFC) been long and we’re weary, but don’t inflict that on the public.”
When Imbert rebuked Ramdial that she was “just being silly,” Annisette-George warned him to “Stop with the attitude.”
Ramdial, at another point—querying funding for contract officers—told Imbert off, “I’m elected to do my duty and ask these questions. I don’t understand why you’re giving me trouble to answer.”
Imbert responded, “You’re elected by the people of Trinidad—you seem to dislike Tobago.
Ramdial replied, “You’re being riotous!”
Imbert continued, “The people know you don’t like them.....”
Ramdial protested, “I love the people of Tobago.”
Imbert then said, “Hahahaha—joke. I don’t believe her .....In your dreams. You hate Tobagonians! No contract officer will vote for you or UNC because you don’t like Tobagonians.”
Ramdial replied, “He has to be crazy. Obviously, they wouldn’t vote for me—I’m in Couva North and the people of Couva North will vote for me. However (Tobagonians) voting for Watson Duke is a different story.”
“None of them will vote for UNC or Duke. No chance. We getting all 12 (THA) seats,” Imbert immediately declared.
When Ramdial queried numbers regarding fishing facilities’ allocations, he asked, “You want to know how much fish too?”
Imbert at another point started replying to queries robotically, in syllables. He explained why. “I-am-speak-ing-slow-as-all-you-doh-hear.”
When UNC MP Vidia Guyadeen-Gopeesingh asked him whether crops farmers’ cultivations included bodi, Imbert said Tobagonians called that “string beans.”
Ramdial, after another exchange with Imbert, said, “I don’t know why you’re like this—condescending.”
“I’m condescending? You’re being rude. Rude and disrespectful,” Imbert replied.
When Ramdial asked about vehicles, Imbert said, “Why you so fascinated with vehicles.”
“You want to know what else I’m fascinated with?” Ramdial asked.
Imbert retorted, “No. I have no interest whatsoever. I’m scared—frightened.”