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When ‘independence’ wears a price tag

Published: 
Friday, May 18, 2018

The member for Caroni Central, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, has given the House of Representatives every reason for him to be referred to the House’s Privileges Committee.

Speaking in Parliament on May 11th, 2018, in response to the presentation by the Honourable Member for Diego Martin North East and Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, Dr Tewarie misled the House, when he said, “There were a number of people who were involved in the preparation of something called ‘Action 2025,’ which was a plan for the country. There were economists involved from Trinidad and Tobago, and there was one economist from the IDB. They were paid by contract, and all those contracts were small contracts. Not more, in any instance, as I remember, than $20,000.”

However, I had previously presented irrefutable facts in Parliament on October 11th, 2016, during the debate on the Appropriation (Financial Year 2017) Bill. I told the House, “Dr Mukesh Basdeo, lecturer at UWI, prepared a chapter on governance and he charged the Government $128,000 for preparing that

Camille Robinson-Regischapter.”

I also said, “The same Roger Hosein, who is always giving advice, prepared a chapter on “Manpower Assessment” at a cost of $154,000. Dr Hosein, again, prepared a chapter on “Resource Allocation” at a cost of $128,000. Madam Speaker, may I point out that this document never became a reality because the staff at the Ministry found the work was substandard.”

A total of $1,102,000 was paid to all the consultants on this document that did not meet the minimum standards for publication. This has never been disputed by any member of the Opposition in either House.

As my colleague, the Minister of Finance asked, “How ‘independent’ are the comments of persons who have actively financially benefited from a political party in power, for doing no work?”

The People’s National Movement believes just as I do, in the principle and practice of freedom of speech. Everyone has the right to say what is on his or her mind, as long as it falls within the legal parameters covering such speech. I also believe in the legal maxims that say, “He who seeks equity should come with clean hands,” and “Nemo iudex in causa sua” (One cannot be a judge in his own case).

On March 10th this year, my comments, under the headline “Declare your hand” were published in the Newsday newspaper. I contended then, as I do now, that many so-called “independent political commentators,” were only claiming to be so in name, when in fact they have axes to grind with the PNM as their histories (political and financial) indicate. To be clear, their having an opinion different to mine or the PNM’s was not the issue. Rather, I called on these commentators to shed the cloak of “independence” because they were and are beholden to the opposition United National Congress, and could demonstrably be claimed to be “singing for their supper.”

Again, how “independent” are the comments of Indira Sagewan-Ali, former UNC MP for Caroni East, 1995 – 2000; or the comments of Dr Winford James, who contested the Tobago East seat in the 1997 bye-election? If they have not broken ties with the parties they represented, can they be said to offer “independent opinions?”

Opinions are the entitlement of every individual regardless of their station in life. Freely expressing those opinions within the confines of applicable laws is a right that each and every one of us should cherish and defend. Likewise, when these rights are abused, prescribed sanctions ought to be applied. There are no sanctions applicable to those who are obviously paid mouthpieces of the UNC—their so-called “independence” only needs to be exposed.

• Camille Robinson-Regis is the PNM’s Arouca/Maloney MP and Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives.

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