Opposition MP Barry Padarath wants Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales to say if he was the person who allegedly instructed that two mega companies be pulled from a list to be published, of customers owing the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), billions of dollars.
“The Minister must also say if the owners of these companies are receiving state contracts under other names—what is the relationship between them and Government?” Padarath added at yesterday’s UNC media briefing.
Padarath said Gonzales “must go since every state enterprise under his purview is in chaos and mismanagement.”
Padarath said the two big companies are a water park and a drinkable water company. Asking if they were being pulled from a list to be published, of customers owing WASA, he noted at the same time, the HDC is on a “blame and shame” thrust which will affect the vulnerable unable to pay.
Padarath asked if the issue of the companies was the real reason WASA CEO Shurland Sheppard was suspended.
“Is he being used as a voluntary scapegoat to protect the person who gave him the instructions?” he added, seeking answers if there’s a “close relationship” between the Minister and CEO.
Padarath also slammed Gonzales concerning the findings of the team which investigated the February 16 outage.
He noted the report said there was no Crisis Commander in charge. Padarath noted that PNM Minister Shamfa Cudjoe in her first Budget statement had said, “We are in charge and you will deal with it.”
“But this report said nobody was in charge (during the outage). So Shamfa Cudjoe, Keith Rowley, Fitzgerald Hinds, Stuart Young—while you beat your chests loudly that ‘we’re in charge’, this report states nobody was in charge. And if nobody was in charge in that situation, somebody has to go. And that person is the Public Utilities Minister.”
Padarath queried how Minister Camille Robinson-Regis (heading a team evaluating TSTT’s assets) could say she’s unaware of the sale of TSTT assets when he said assets are advertised publicly by several real estate agents. He held up documents on that. He queried property sales while he claimed TSTT’s leasing properties for millions from JC Landings.
“I invite the public to see who the directors of this company is.”
Padarath later told Guardian Media he welcomed Gary Griffith’s National Transformation party but he said T&T continues being a two-party system and he didn’t see NTA taking away from UNC’s base since members have rallied around UNC’s leader.
UNC MP Anita Haynes expressed concerns regarding safety in schools from health issues to school violence. She said the Education Ministry has taken a hands-off approach and was derelict in its duty to students, from infrastructural concerns to not making proper policy as students entered the physical school system.
Haynes said Education opted for a” long slow painful road” to treat with school violence which everyone always knew existed and was dormant during school closure.
Haynes said conflict resolution, anger management and proper coping skills should have been emphasised but Education continued under-resourcing the Students Support Services division and there were budget cuts and unfilled vacancies.
There should also be a consultative, targeted approach if TTPS was involved—but she noted TTPS itself is under-resourced and unable to fill its vacancies and now has to assist schools also.
Haynes slammed the prospect that children might be criminalized by the Ministry’s thrust in that regard and carry lifelong stigma if the situation wasn’t handled properly.