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Nicki Minaj, Kirk Douglas in the house

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It seemed to have been showbiz week in the House of Representatives in recent days. More than the usual amount of showing (and telling) that is. For instance, while “m.....” is not exactly a frequently used parliamentary term, it also managed to find its way—via edited spelling—into the Parliament’s Hansard record during Wednesday’s House sitting. PNM MP Amery Browne, who produced a carefully censored version of the term as supporting evidence in a matter against PP MP Anil Roberts, also acquainted House members with the expletive’s user in that particular instance.
Result being: hip hop artiste Nicki Minaj is now also immortalised in the parliamentary record.

logo(And PP’s Roberts subsequently apologised for giving any impression that Minaj’s recent concert was 100 per cent free of all excessively colourful language.) On Wednesday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan warned that Government was out to get the “rude boys, the bad boys and the bling culture” in T&T’s gangland. And yesterday, PP MP Errol McLeod introduced younger House members to Kirk Douglas, Sophia Loren and their movie Town Without Pity. McLeod quipped, “I think the member for Diego Martin North/ East (Colm Imbert) and the Member for San Fernando East (Patrick Manning) would have seen that movie. “But I think the member for San Fernando East would have preferred A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and They Call Me Trinity. It had a rotund man in it—Calder,” he added. However, PNM MP Paula Gopee-Scoon didn’t shirk when came her turn to reply to McLeod.

“Look at the statistics (under PNM), the majority of areas (of crime) showed reductions, but they thought they could come in with Celine Dion and Bob Marley tunes and One Love and it would just go away,” Gopee-Scoon declared. Light moments though they were, this didn’t detract from debate on the anti-gang legislation underway this week. The bill, whose loopholes could threaten to trap the wrong people along with gang members, seemed headed for scrutiny by select committee. If it did, PP sources said this could encompass Independent senators rather than the biparti-san approach of a joint select team. In the event of such a committee, the Government would have learned from this week’s complaint by Independent Senator Basharrat Ali that the Independents were out of discussions on the Interception of Communications Bill. That came a day after Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhela-wan warned against using the Independents as a parliamentary rubber stamp.

Calder comparisons and the CAL issue?

The learning curve is also proving steep outside of the Cabinet concerning the first board which the Government appointed—Caribbean Airlines Ltd—its chairman George Nicholas, sacked CEO Ian Brunton, and Works Minister Jack Warner. The situation prompted Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to call a meeting on Monday of state board chairmen, members, regional chairmen, ministers and senators regarding the how-tos of public sector operation. PP officials said the impasse has put the Government on the spot in a particularly sensitive area having regard to the PP’s vociferous outcry about the so-called free rein with which former Udecott chairman Calder Hart operated. Key part in the PP’s election attack on the PNM was Hart’s alleged bypassing of line ministers.

Some PP officials are concerned the same might be reflected in the CAL issue as a result of the board’s move against a Cabinet decision— sanctioned by Warner—to acquire nine French manufactured aircraft, a matter Brunton was involved with, it was reported. However, PP Government sources said Cabinet discussions on the issue were not concluded “in one smooth shot” since there was some doubt on certain aspects and it took a couple sessions before Cabinet’s F&GP sub-committee before members “eventually” signed off on the matter. Although the issue is still “live” as a result of Brunton’s move to legal options— and the board’s refusal to budge—no development has been forthcoming, in view of Warner’s absence from T&T.

Warner, who wrote a report on the issue to the PM, Ramlogan and House leader Roodal Moonilal, returns from overseas Monday. Most of the attendees at Persad- Bissessar’s seminar on Monday may not have remembered a symposium on operation of state-owned companies held by former PM Basdeo Panday on February 11, 1998. Persad-Bissessar had been seated at Panday’s right hand then, when he said he was “determined to pre-empt any future possibility of state enterprises becoming runaway horses or rogue elephants with public funds.” Panday had deemed the then BWIA board a “flyaway horse.” Certain PP executive members, who yesterday were attributing the CAL impasse to “newness,” however agreed that that excuse would hardly last past this month, particularly having regard to the PP’s campaignspeak about highly qualified people, improved ways of operation, and positive change.

Clico lawsuit in three weeks—CPGH
The change which the Clico Policyholders Group (CPHG) had hoped to see was the removal of Finance Minister Winston Dookeran. Failing that, however, CPHG is pressing on with plans to take the Government to court on the issue. This, despite the fact that CPHG has put policyholders on notice that legal action could have serious implications on the economy after Clico’s assets are frozen in court action. CPHG’s Peter Permell had told his audience last Sunday that the the situation could also cause loss of confidence in the insurance sector. He’d added: “This is part of the train wreck. It’s worse than that but I don’t want to frighten you...”
Yesterday Permell told TG: “We heard no word from Government since, so as of now the train has left the station—we’re putting logistical systems in place towards legal action which we’ll certainly file before year-end.” CPHG’s speakers had featured economist Indira Sagewan-Ali, who said she had been asked to be on the Clico board. Government officials have said she is “not on the board.”

Imbert ‘leads’ PNM team
In the absence of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley yesterday, PNM’s House team was not exactly leaderless. (Rowley’s chair was occupied for a while by colleague Marlene McDonald’s briefcase—then more fully filled by MP Colm Imbert.) Rowley missed sessions on Wednesday and yesterday, recovering from sinus surgery, PNMites said. It was his first absence from the House since he became leader in June. Among those thumping the desk in approval when House Speaker Wade Mark sent get-well wishes to Rowley was former leader Patrick Manning. After being referred the previous week to Parliament’s Privileges Committee, Manning had been a no-show for Wednesday’s House sitting. His absence that day helped him avoid the indignity of hearing Attorney General Anand Ramlogan refer to him (to his face) as the “chief macco.”

However, Manning showed up yesterday, also showing that he’d lost none of his fight when he lent loud desk-thumping support to seatmate MP Gopee-Scoon as she spoke on PNM’s crime-fighting effort and the PP’s bid on the problem. Imbert, in Rowley’s chair on Wednesday and yesterday, appeared to have enjoyed his stint. This, judging from the warm, highly animated conversation he held with chief whip Marlene McDonald, his colleagues and even PP House Leader Roodal Moonilal (on Wednesday). Imbert’s scrutiny of the anti-gang bill on Wednesday extended to Government’s presentation, giving the PP lessons on effective delivery, on the why and wherefores of provisions and application. “You first have to identify the problem, identify the solution and then explain how, what is proposed in the legislation for it,” Imbert instructed.

Imbert’s lecture—geared at AG Ramlogan, whom he said didn’t present the bill well—seemed to have earned him points with the Government since his speaking time was extended, not by PNM MPs but by PP MP Anil Roberts. In a sense it has fallen to the more experienced PNM side—with PP sanction—to steer the PP through various parliamentary lessons such as this and shaping crucial and controversial legislation such as the Interception of Communications Bill, which saw a groundbreaking bipartisan approach. Outnumbered on special majority votes, Rowley’s Opposition therefore appears to be carving out a niche in terms of instructor where procedures and legislation are concerned, as well as trying to “watchdog” the Government.

Rude boys & bad boys (or not)
• One of the qualifications for T&T gang membership is that the “applicant” must either have no parents or have been thrown out of home and disowned by parents, ac-cording to PNM’s Colm Imbert on Wednes-day.

• Gang leaders provide “applicants” with accommodation, meals and a gun, he added.

• One of the youths’ ambitions is to pass the age of 30, “because in gangland culture average life expectancy is about 21,” Imbert also revealed.

n Attorney General Anand Ramlogan went back to roots in Tuesday’s Senate to take issue with the PNM’s blimp.
“The blimp was a blinking failure! It sounded like a farmall or a tractor hovering overhead,” Ramlogan complained.

• Ramlogan’s legal background has defi-nitely not limited him to dry scholarly ram-blings but rather lent the ability to mix the academic with (very) colourful real-life terms.

n While wading into the absent Manning during Wednesday’s debate, Ramlogan won-dered how Manning had gotten facts on the Guanapo church from Rev Juliana Pena when “the police looking for she” (sic), he said.

• It was enough for Ramlogan to connect with anyone from the “hood.” But hey, every-one knows the AG ain’t going to write that when he puts pen to paper. Right?

• Ramlogan’s beef with Manning on the wire-tapping issue ran to his description of the former PM as the “chief macco”—a term the AG seemed to like so much that after Tuesday’s delivery in the Senate, he also flew it in the House on Wednesday.

• But while it skated by Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, House Speaker Wade Mark instructed Ramlogan—delivering his maiden address in the House—“not to say that here.”

• Former Minister Joe Ross’s display of zucchini and other mega farm vegetables might be remembered.

• As well as Jack Warner’s pictures of the Guanapo church and PNM MP Paula Gopee-Scoon hugging US President Barack Obama, Manning’s pictures of Persad-Bissessar’s house and Amery Browne’s pix of Nicki Minaj which all made it into the House in the past ahead of Speaker Mark’s ruling on Wednes-day.

• Whether or not PNM MP Gopee-Scoon did the necessary yesterday, she successfully produced—a copy of the PNM’s Vision 2020 plan.

• The inattentiveness of some PP MPs during colleague Errol McLeod’s contribution was not missed by Gopee-Scoon, who noted that PP’s Winston Dookeran had been sleeping.

• She declined to state that PP’s Prakash Ramadhar, Rudy Indarsingh and Clifton de Coteau had also been texting during McLeod’s address and others—including the PM—working on documents.


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