Statement of UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Statement of Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during UNC's virtual report presentation on May 17, 2021.

Kamla Persad Bissessar
Kamla Persad Bissessar

Trinidad and Tobago: Statement of Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during UNC’s virtual report presentation on May 17, 2021.

We have come at a time when other countries are coming out of lockdown – I saw the United Kingdom there was a football match and more than 20,000 attended. 

So while they are opening up their borders, opening up their businesses, opening up their society, we have gone in the opposite direction, we are now into a state of emergency. 

How did we get there? I will spend a little time on that later but I think there are some important issues to be raised.

Let me be clear, that the UNC supports initiatives aimed at saving lives and livelihoods and getting this virus under control. 

However, we reserve the right to raise concerns and to hold the government to account. 

We support vaccination as a priority in the fight against Covid, as this is the only real measure to bring the virus down. 

In this regard, we recommend that you consult your doctor, because each person’s health is different.  

So consult your doctor and make a decision, but vaccination is a priority at this time. 

We continue to urge the government to take all essential steps to get sufficient vaccines for our population at the earliest.  Already we are way under our own CARICOM partners here, in terms of the numbers vaccinated, in terms of the percentage of our population. 

In this regard, in accessing vaccines, I know the Prime Minister threw his hands up in the air when last he spoke that we can’t get vaccines and that has been his cry all along that there are not sufficient vaccines.  Well Prime Minister, “pride cometh before the fall”. 

Put your pride away and write to the United States or call upon the United States because US President Biden has announced that they will be giving away more vaccines. So in addition to those they announced before, the President is saying they have more vaccines they would like to donate. 

So Prime Minister, I call upon you, and indeed I take the bold step to ask the United States to please send some vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago. 

So we support vaccination.

The government has been saying that we are sabotaging the vaccination programme.  Can you tell us when and where we did that?  Because that did not happen.  The truth is that you did not have sufficient vaccines.  

The truth is that there were long lines when there were some vaccines which we got from India which we also lobbied for, which I hope you also lobbied for – there were long lines, people were coming to get, so it is you that sabotaged the process because you have not secured the vaccines needed for our population. 

So please, here is another opportunity. Put your pride aside and ask the US to please send us some vaccines. 

The UNC will continue to hold the government to account for the expenditure of taxpayers’ funds.  You have spent you say 18 billion dollars.  We still do not know where this money went.  We call upon you to show and explain to the population where that money was spent. And further I call for a full audit on your alleged expenditure on COVID related matters in dealing with the pandemic.  

With the billions spent on COVID and Government’s plans to take on additional debt, we ask for transparency and accountability. 

STATE OF EMERGENCY 

So now we have a State of Emergency. 

This affects us in the internal space of Trinidad and Tobago. But without dealing with the porous borders, then we are in trouble. Because the persons who are coming in illegally – not through the ports that you’ve closed down, not through the airport, but they are coming through other unprotected areas in our porous borders. And therefore the State of Emergency, the lockdown, the curfew will have little, or maybe no effect unless you deal with the porous borders. 

You have disclosed no plans as to how you are going to deal with the porous borders. There’s an influx of illegals coming into our borders.  

So yes, we support the initiatives, but we raise concerns. 

On the issue of vaccines – you sat on your hands, you made excuses, but you dilly-dallied and did not seek to procure vaccines for Trinidad and Tobago. 

We have pursued the vaccination option from day one and so we continue to press for vaccinations. 

Again, we support initiatives to save lives, to save livelihoods, but at the same time we reserve the right to raise concerns. 

And I have some very serious concerns when it comes to the State of Emergency Regulations which have now been published. 

SOE REGULATIONS LN 142/2021 

First of all, the government delayed, and they were very negligent when they announced the State of Emergency on Saturday, failed to say what the regulations were.  They left the nation in a state of confusion because they did not know what they were allowed to do or not allowed to do because no regulations were brought forward.  24 hours after the announcement of the state of emergency – no regulations were published. 

These have now been published and as I say I have some concerns with them and I seek clarification.  Because in some respects there is ambiguity, there is vagueness so clarity is needed so that people can know what they’re allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do.

And therefore certainty is very important in law-making, the regulations are in fact, subsidiary legislation, they are in fact part of the law of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Whilst there may be other concerns with the regulations, I want to raise some of them this evening. 

First of all I want to deal with Regulation 3 which is the substantive regulation which governs the rest of the regulations. 

Regulation 3 deals with

  1. (1) During the period of public emergency between the hours of 5:01 a.m. to 8:59 p.m. every day, a person shall not–

(a) gather in any public place unless the gathering–

(i) for the purpose of the services are specified in subregulation (10);

(ii) does not exceed five persons at a time; 

So you cannot gather in any public space, unless you fall within some of the purposes specified in Subregulation 10 and I’ll come to that. 

And Regulation 3. (1) (b) says a person shall not be at any workplace unless the services are specified in subregulation (10) and shall where possible work from home; 

So these are the questions that arise and these are the concerns that I have. 

First of all, are the offices of the Members of Parliament, the offices of councillors, the office of the Leader of the Opposition public places? 

And the answer is obviously yes.  Because the same regulations define for us what is a public space.

Now it is easy in some sense to know being on a street, being on a highway, that that is a public place.  It becomes a little vague when you start to move into offices operating as MPs, operating as Councillors, operating as the Leader of the Opposition. 

Are those public spaces?  And in my respectful view based on the definition in Regulation 2 yes, they are public spaces and therefore no person shall gather there unless you have an exemption, unless you are providing services under Subregulation 10 – and I’ll come to those to see what those are – the first thing is that these are public spaces. Secondly, they are places of work – we have people working in these offices – MPs’ offices, Councillors’ offices, at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and therefore no person shall be there unless you have the exemption as provided in regulation 10.  

A public space – Regulation 2 says 

“public place” means any highway, street, public park or garden, any beach, sea, river, stream, pond, spring or similar body of water, any public pool or mud volcano or mud pools and any public bridge, road, lane, footway, square, court, alley or passage, whether a thoroughfare or not and includes any open or enclosed space to which, for the time being, the public have or are permitted to have access whether on payment or otherwise; 

Yes, persons have access to MPs’ offices, Councillors’ offices, at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.  But they also have access to political offices.  Not just as Parliamentarians or councillors, but political parties have offices. 

The UNC has offices, we have a Headquarters, as do other political parties, so all political parties have places of work. Places of work which are also, in my respectful view, public spaces.

Because the public can come there, they are permitted to come there, they can seek advice, they want representation, they come to these offices. 

So we are saying that these are caught within the regulations, and no person shall gather in these spaces, and secondly, no person shall come there as a workplace, so that means for the employees. 

Now, do you have an exemption under Regulation 10? 

Regulation 10 provides almost 100 services which are exempt.  One of them speaks to the Parliament. 

What does it say when it comes to Parliament? 

Reg 10 (c) provides:

(10) During the period of public emergency between the hours of

5:01 am to 8:59 pm every day, the following services may be provided:

(a) ….

(b) ….

(c) operations and sittings of the Houses of Parliament and

meetings of the Cabinet, or any committees thereof;” 

So do the offices of MPs, does the office of the Leader of the Opposition fall within “operations and sittings of the Houses of Parliament”?  In my respectful view, this is uncertain. 

There is one view that no – the operations at MPs’ offices are not operations of the Parliament or the sittings of the Parliament.

There was a case many years ago when we had the 18-18 tie – there was the case of Chandresh Sharma and the Attorney General where as MPs – and I was one of those MPs – where 18 of us brought litigation against the government claiming that you have to pay us salaries.  

We were elected Members of Parliament but you did not pay us for a whole year while the Parliament was in deadlock and no speaker elected.  Meanwhile on the other side of the House – the other 18 were collecting salaries because they were appointed Ministers and every one of the PNM MPs were appointed Ministers, and every PNM Senator was a Minister at that point in time.  

So they were getting salaries, but the Opposition MPs they said no we are not paying you because you have not taken the oath of office and therefore you cannot collect the salary.  So we went to court.  At the lower court, the court ruled no we were not entitled to be paid. 

At the court of appeal they said no we were not entitled to be paid.  When it went to the Privy Council, the Privy Council said yes – you can’t give half the house – which is the Government side and you’re not giving Opposition MPs.  And yes, they are entitled to be paid. 

And the point I want to take out of that is this – whilst it is to make the distinction between sittings in the Parliament and the work done by MPs outside of the Parliament – outside the Parliament the court said listen – even though you are not sitting in the Parliament because the Parliament is deadlocked, there is no speaker and so on, you carry out functions as an MP outside of those sittings and operations of the Parliament. 

You carry out advisory things, you make representation on behalf of your constituents and therefore you are entitled to be paid. I raise this case today because I am saying under Regulation 10 (c) while the sittings of the Parliament and the committees of the Parliament, whilst those services are allowed to be carried on, the work that the MPs do in their constituencies will not fall under, and if they do – again, clarify.  It is uncertain. It is vague, it is ambiguous. 

So I am saying clarify, make it very clear, expressly provide that MPs offices, Councillors’ offices, office of the Leader of the Opposition, that these offices, as public spaces that they can be under an exemption. 

As it stands, does it fall under 10 (c ) operations and sittings of the Houses? 

I am saying in one view the answer is no.  As MPs we have an important function outside of the Parliament sittings to service our constituents. 

Councillors also have that same job to do. Office of the Leader of the Opposition. 

So these are public spaces yes, but there is no express provision in these regulations for allowing persons to come – because persons do come – they come to all these offices.  And this will not affect just the UNC offices you know.  Not only UNC MPs, not only UNC councillors – it also affects the PNM councillors and PNM MPs.  Their offices would also be impacted by this.  

And it is indeed as elected MPs and councillors, we have an important role to play in a representative democracy, that if these regulations do not expressly provide for the functions we carry out outside of the sittings of the Parliament then we are in a bad place indeed.  

Democracy demands that these offices be allowed to operate and be given an express provision as being allowed.

That is in respect of a public space, that people can come.

So, I am saying this should be made- it should be cleared up, made very clear, these offices, people can continue to come albeit five at a time, that’s okay but at the same time but people should know for certain I can go to my MP’s office, I can go to the councillor’s office, I can go to the office of the Leader of the Opposition. For that I think it needs clarification.

So that is in terms of gathering but then also these offices are also workplaces and the regulation I read, the three, the second part of it also said ‘no person should be at a workplace’. But these are workplace- there are members of staff in these offices, all three: Opposition office, councilors’ offices and Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

So, is it now that our staff must stay away? If there is not staff then how do we carry out our function? We will not be able to do the work if our staff are not allowed the exemption- or not allowed—expressly allowed so that they can be there at the workplace if they are providing services at these offices.

So, I’m saying that’s one aspect of the regulations that I have a concern with. The second aspect has to do with political offices now.

Now whilst it is the regulations say services provided with respect to operations and sitting of the Parliament and I am saying that I don’t think the offices fall under that- they work outside, in the offices, and whilst it is for councilors, statutory corporations are exempt under regulation ten- statutory corporations and municipal corporations—the local bodies- they are exempt but that will have to do with the work they do within the corporation.

When they go to work at the corporations when they have committee meetings at the corporations, the regional corporations, the local government bodies and so on. But are they exempt when they go to these public places, which is the office? Are they exempt when the workers come in? I don’t think it is covered by that limited exemption in ten for statutory authorities and therefore, municipal corporations.

Let’s come to the second aspect of the regulation, political offices. All political parties need offices. We have headquarters, we have various offices in other parts of the country.

Other political parties likewise have offices and they are public spaces because people do come- remember I read the definition of public space. People come, so first of all they say you cannot gather unless you have some exemption under regulation ten.

Second, you can’t go to work, to your workplaces- these are workplaces. So firstly, they are public places as defined and they are also work places so we have staff at these places, all political parties. In the regulation there is no- in the ten which is the one that gives all the services that can continue, there is nothing allowing for the offices of political parties to provide services. To have people work, nothing in it whatsoever.

And in a participatory democracy, in a representative democracy like ours, this is a vital part of the democracy. The political parties’ offices should be allowed to operate, even if it is in a limited gathering of at least five.

You must be allowed to have persons at work so when the public comes in you can answer their queries, you can help them. They come in, they need help for themselves, for their families—a lot of hardship going on out there and they are seeking that assistance.

There is nothing, no express provision for political parties to do their work and I call on the government– I don’t need clarity for that, I am certain that this is prohibited. I call upon the government to correct that and allow for political parties in the same way they allowed for trade unions.

Interesting enough in regulation ten, the trade unions are provided for and that’s good, that’s important, the trade unions are an important part of the democracy. In that they provide for religious organizations and that’s good too- you say they can hold weddings and funerals with limited numbers and okay fine.

But you allow the religious organizations something else, they say they can meet, you can gather. Again, in the small numbers- you can do it if you want to pre-record or you want to do zoom to still reach your congregation but for political parties, we can even do a zoom.

So today, where we are doing this virtual, I can’t be in the party office. If a political party wants to hold a press conference, where would they hold it? We cannot do that from an MP’s office and therefore, I think this is a serious, serious lapse, a lacuna in the regulation that needs to be corrected, that political parties should be given.

And that means the PNM, the UNC, the PDP and any other party should be given likewise permission to carry out services from their political offices. So, regarding the regulation these are the concerns we have, I call upon the government to correct a serious breach in our participatory democracy.

Remember we talked about how our rights would be curtailed under the SoE and our constitutional rights include the right to join political parties, the right to express political views, the right to freedom of assembly and association- political parties can meet.

That’s a serious part of our democracy and the regulation at the moment does not allow for the services and work of political parties. I’m not asking you to say we can have mass meetings in the public square, I am saying that in the same way the trade unions are allowed to have their workplaces and carry out their services, in the same way that should also be afforded to political parties.

With the regulations again, another concern I have- a doctor raised this with me, a doctor said ‘listen, due to overcrowding at medical institutions, if there is a patient that has to be discharged during curfew hours, can that person leave their healthcare facilities and go home?’ So, if someone is discharged after 9pm and before 5am, are you in breach of these regulations?

Remember no person in a public place, can you go home? A doctor is saying those persons are not exempted under the regulations. Now, health services are exempted under the regulations but that’s not a health service, that’s when you leave the hospital so what happens whilst on the road?

Are you in breach then, as a person being in a public place? Under regulation ten there is nothing for persons like these who may be coming out of medical facilities.

So the government seems to be in chaos so they bring out their hustlers masquerading as independents to do damage control.

While regulation ten says you can be out for vegetable stalls, fruit stalls, etc., I think we need to clarify as the farmers are uncertain, the market vendors are uncertain because they are saying ‘5am but we have to be out there before 5am to get our produce out there’.

Now regulations ten says there are exemptions for market stalls, fruit stalls but can you come out and clarify to these people that yes, you can come out before 5am to set up your stalls and so on? These are the points with regards to the regulations and there will be others but these are the ones I zero’d into at the moment.  

And now I want to turn to another issue, the issue deals with care at health facilities- medical care. 

MEDICAL CARE 

We have already been told that the facilities are overcrowded, we have already been told that the frontline workers don’t have enough equipment, what you call PPE, not enough of it.

We are being told that there is a shortage of vital supplies, ventilators and so on for those who need it. We are also being told, and this is a very serious matter that when you go in, you’re being categorized.

They are saying ‘you’re old and you have the pre-conditions’ so ‘don’t pay too much priority, you know. That person could go’ because you’re overcrowded and understaffed and they’re saying ‘listen, you come in here an old person and you have comorbidities and you shut those aside’.

Is this true? Someone sent me this and I want to read it because it’s very heartbreaking. 

“This man here was not a statistic on the internet that people check at 4:30pm. 

Born June 11 1934, this man’s life was stolen from him on May 14 2021.   While 86 years may seem old to some, the quality of life he still had was most definitely present and one that anyone who knew him would know it was worth fighting for.

Despite being home bound for the last year-plus by himself with far too infrequent visits, he got covid.  That’s the thing about this virus.  I can’t even be upset with how he got it because the person was none the wiser that they themselves had been exposed. Rewind to all the images of how your small circle connects to 100s more without you realizing and all those advertisements of staying away from your grandparents because you love them and you understand what covid is about. 

I want to share an experience because we do not know as a nation what is taking place. 

After struggling at home for a couple days even with the instinctive generosity of a kind person’s oxygen concentrator, my uncle’s oxygen content was slowly declining.  We knew he wouldn’t want to leave home but we also knew without the right equipment and care we would not have been able to save him.  

So our hands tied behind our back we call an ambulance who mind you, arrived without knowing where they were taking him since there were no beds available at any of the health centres.  

The ambulance took 4 hours to arrive and the driver spoke of absolute horror on his day thus far and the state of the hospitals.  Right before driving out of the house, Couva said yes someone just died, a bed opened up. Bring him immediately. 

Let that soak in … someone just died and a bed opened up. 

With a grateful heart and filled with hope we promised him we would bring him back home. 

If we knew what would happen next we WOULD HAVE NEVER SENT HIM.  

He arrived and the first phone call from the hospital brought on the grim reality of our decision. Using our Government’s reporting language, he was an elderly male with comorbidities. 

So we knew his odds were against him. “Your dad is very sick and because of his age he does not qualify for ICU” “The system is overrun”  And because of the Government’s profile he was not a candidate for further treatment. 

It was not just the odds against him, it is the placement of a body in a  production line with a predetermined result. This was his death sentence. 

Guilt and regret, for entrusting his care in our Government’s system 

Immediately we knew we made the wrong choice. My sweet [name withheld] died alone and scared on Friday morning at 7:35AM. 

We were contacted at 4:07 PM. So many hours later, over 8 hours later. Why am I sharing such a personal story? 

Because my story is similar to far too many people. One year with this vicious virus all over the world. One year with our borders closed. One year with minimal impact on our community, what did our government do with their head start? Nothing. 

Whilst other countries are opening up we are locking down. State of Emergency. 

I continue to read – Medical systems never really prepared sufficiently despite knowing what would have happened with a major spread. The day he was admitted we had 342 in hospital. 342 persons in hospital. 9 in ICU and 58 in HDU. 

Vaccinations at 60 thousand out of 1.4 million. A 4% rate of vaccination.  They mindfully kept T&T in a bubble, a bubble thin coating of bubble wrap but did nothing to protect us. 

It’s like wrapping something in a  thin coating of bubble wrap and flinging it on the other side of the room  and being surprised that it broke. 

I am sad that this was his journey. I am sad that his children will always regret gambling on our Government’s system. And I am damm angry that we continue to leave our faith  in the incompetence of our PM. 

He who spent three weeks at home with COVID and then has the audacity to arrogantly lecture and berate the rest of us who put him in power. 

COVID is real, far too real to me and many around the world. One year later sitting with our fingers crossed hoping we get away is not a strategy. 

Neither is this useless curfew that does not address movement. Maybe spending a fraction of the economic impact on these shutdowns in securing vaccines might have been a better idea. 

This is not a political post. This is an indictment on both the Opposition and leading body. This is an indictment on every person directly and indirectly serving the Government. Do not assume I am Anti PNM. 

I am Anti senseless death due to inaction when you had a long headstart. 

Heaven stole our angel. Rest in peace. You may be their stupid statistic but to us you were our loving dad that is gone forever. We love you always and will miss you  [End of Letter]” 

This is not a UNC person. They are saying this is the reality they are against senseless death. I agree with the writer of this that over a year and  we have not put systems in place to save lives, far less save livelihoods.

Therefore I raise the concern. Medical care what is happening? Are you really categorizing people in this way? Old and have pre conditions? Are you prioritizing who will live and who will die? Is it that some people are seeing themselves as  God? They determine who they will take care of.

RELIEF APPLICATIONS

Now I look at the relief applications. So the Minister is boasting you can get relief. The Prime Minister is telling the country 25 thousand hampers will be given out but apparently the MSDFS and the Ministry of Agriculture who were the agents for the distribution of the hampers to MP’s offices. 

The PM said 25 thousand hampers which works out to 600 hampers per constituency.

But as I say these two Ministries who were administering that relief programme, they were losing their fridge door so they didn’t hear the PM say 25 thousand because on the very same day the MP’s offices were told they cant get 600.

So before they even gave it they took it back. You talk the talk but you don’t walk the walk. It sounds good but since last year people applied and they have not received it yet.

Over 7000 people couldn’t get the grant last year who qualified because they didn’t have a bank account. Do you know how much pressure it is to set up a bank account? The poorest who needed it the most.

Up to one year later they still havent done anything to make sure this 7000 who didn’t have a bank account, that something be done about it.

But they are doing the same thing again. Announcing all these relief measures  and again if these people have no bank accounts how are you going to help them? You cannot throw your hands up in the air and say they have no bank account so no money. They need it the most! How will you change your modus operandi to make sure that those most in need will get it?

What have you done now? You said we will put the application forms for the grants, they will be out. That was supposed to be Monday, Monday come and gone. As far as I know those forms did not go up online all of last week I’m not sure if they are up today this monday.

The second issue is they’ve made all these applications to be  done online. People have enough difficulty as it is they will welcome these grants. We as I tell you are inundated with calls of people wanting help but they don’t care.

So you put it down online. Already we have thousands of people without internet access. How are they going online? Thousands of people with no devices, we know it with the children, far less for the parents. How will they go online to apply for these things?

Once again it’s typical the Poor Never Matter. Have you thought these things through? It sounds good when you hold your press conference and yet how do you access it online?

In the law there are many cases which talk about giving someone something but then it’s how do you access it. If you cannot access it that is a violation of your rights.

For example there are cases saying you are entitled to get a particular license but you have had to pay a license fee. Some cases have said No No No you cannot put a monetary figure on it.

I’m thinking those cases would apply here where youre saying “you could apply, you could get it so go online” but you have no device, you have no internet. Are you for real? Is this Government for real? Do they have a care at all for those in need? 11 Billion received from various agencies to spend on Covid. Over 18 billion spent and we still don’t know where. I repeat the call for an audit of the expenditure on Covid.

Letter from TML 

“These were some of the issues I wanted to raise with you this evening. I have received a letter on another note from the Trinidad Muslim League. And I will quote from that letter.

“It is with a great sense of sadness that we are witnessing the immense hardship facing the people of Palestine. To date as reported by the International media over 200 Palestinians including children have been killed and 9 Isralis have been killed.

The army of Israel has bombarded the people of Palestine destroying lives and infrastructure. Both sides have lost lives however the Palestinians have overwhelmingly suffered the greatest hardship, death of its people, loss of land and homes and other resources”

I continue to read “On September 30th 1993, Israli PM and palestinian Liberation Organistion negotiator signed a declaration of pirinciples on interim self government arrangements commonly referred to as the Oslo Accord. Giving rise to the Two state agreement Palestine and Israel, both states living side by side and having international recognition and sovereignty.

To date the provisions of the agreement have not been realised.”

The letter continues, I leave out parts in the interest of time. I quote again “We fully understand the complex nature of the conflict and the difficult road ahead in brinig n this international humanity suffering under some kind of control whereby both people can live side by side. As constituents of T&T, we are seeking a bipartisan approach and there be a call fo an immediate end to the current onslaught on the Palestinian population by the Israli army as well as the termination of rocket fire from the Palestinian controlled region”

I continue “ We are seeking your public disapproval of the current situation in Palestine and the immediate cessation of the bombing of the people of Palestine and the rocket fire from Gaza. A return to the Oslo accord and implementation of the different UN declaration by all parties, both Israel and Palestine.

Lives of Palestinianc and Isralis must be saved and protected and there must be equality of treatment and adherence to all resolutions and legal agreements.”

I think this is a very fair stance by the Trinidad Muslim League. I support it. I support the stance of the TML in this matter. I support them in their call for equality of treatment and adherence to all resolutions and legal agreements including the Oslo Accord and the UN declarations in this regard.

It is a case of humanity and suffering. I call on the Government as well, that they should also give consideration to what is happening there. It is a case of humanity and the suffering of men, women and children. 

FOOD DRIVE

People are Hurting

The lockdowns that we are experiencing, at a time when the rest of the world is opening back up, are not affecting us all equally. If you don’t have running water, electricity, or enough space at home to socially distance yourself, then you can’t follow the health regulations.

If you can’t work from home, and you earn your living doing housework or garden work or daily paid jobs, and you don’t have a bank account, then you have no income and the Government will not give you income relief. So you can’t feed your family.

If you look at news headlines around the world, they read

  • “Lockdowns are fine for the rich, but millions are too poor      to shelter from coronavirus”
  • “Wealth increase of 10 men during pandemic could buy   vaccines for all”
  • “How The Rich Partied During Coronavirus Lockdown”
  • “Zoom Privilege: How Lockdowns Made the Rich Richer”
  • “COVID has worsened inequality even as the rich thrive: Oxfam”
  • “An even more divided world: COVID is a boon for the rich, a bane for the poor: As millions of people around the world lost their jobs, billionaires increased their wealth by 27.5% between April and July.” 

It hurts me to see the people of Trinidad and Tobago put in this position because of Keith Rowley’s heartlessness and carelessness.

Just as we did during the first lockdown last year, and just as we have done whenever there are natural disasters like flooding, we are going to organise relief efforts throughout the entire country.

The UNC will help those who can’t afford even their basic needs at this time. We are asking the wider population to respond to the very real threat of food insecurity that thousands of our citizens are facing each day during this pandemic.

You can contribute to this initiative with foodstuff, household supplies, or you can even volunteer logistical assistance.

We are launching this initiative tonight, under the banner, “The UNC is here to help, here to care”. We have a video message giving you more information on how you can help and get involved. Let’s watch it now. 

Before I close I would like to make some suggestions.

President Biden has announced 20 million vaccines to give away

  1. I am calling on the USA  to donate some of those vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago.
  2. And I call on the Government to engage the USA in talks over those vaccines. You must never be too proud to beg to save lives, Prime Minister.  That’s humanitarian on your part. 
  3. A second suggestion , I know we talked about the field hospitals, that’s all well  and good . But should the system continue to be overburdened. Should we run out of space then there are lots of buildings we have. The UNVC built over 106 schools .They are there. They are empty. If you need extra space, you could retrofit these buildings. 
  4. On VAT refunds, Prime Minister Rowley those VAT refunds do not belong to you. You are using it as your money. Give the businesses their VAT refunds. They need it now especially as their income is down. 
  5. Another suggestion is to remove VAT on all food items. Minister Imbert said he doesn’t want to deal with taking away taxes. Well Minister look at your revenue stream from VAT. When you came into the office you removed all the items as we had VAT exempt items. The majority of the 7000 food items  you pay VAT on them . Your revenue stream will not fall by much. You did not increase your revenue stream so it won’t hurt you. People are suffering. One essential in all the regulations is places selling food. It’s a basic need. So remove the VAT off food items . Let people breathe more freely. At least food will become more affordable for them and their families.

And I close now by exploring each and every one to follow the health protocols. Sanitize. Wash your hands. Social distance. Get tested. And again we have an issue here because we don’t have sufficient testing. And I’m told private institutions are charging 15,00 dollars  for a test. Government needs to ramp up testing. Get tested. Check your doctor and get vaccinated. Stay at home as far as possible. 

I thank you all very much. We shall meet again. Can you imagine a Prime MInister, every time he speaks he blames everybody, but then didn’t he get Covid too. This is an airborne disease, it’s not your fault if you contract  Covid. 

And the language is so obscene . You think it’s a joke. It’s a calypso you quitting., But Prime Minister you are not a calypsonian. 

How can you use that language in the public domain? Is that the kind of language you teach your children? You are not a calypso as much as you may want to kicks off you are not. Do your job. We are very disappointed in you . 

Thank you God bless You .