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Friday 23 March 2018

PM’s a ‘true Trini smart man’

OROPOUCHE EAST MP Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday accused the ruling PNM of adopting a “Lok Jack approach” to governance by removing special purpose companies (SPCs) from scrutiny by reducing the number of parliamentary joint select committees (JSCs) from three to two. Prime Minister Patrick Manning dismissed Moonilal’s claims, countering: “We have gone out of our way to keep the SPCs outside of politics.”

Speaking during debate in the House of Representatives on a motion moved by Leader of Government Business Colm Imbert to appoint two JSCs, Moonilal described Manning as “the quintessential Trinidad smart man” for reducing the JSCs from two to three at a time when greater accountability of the State’s affairs was demanded by the population. He said one such area was the operation of the SPCs without the proper scrutiny of the Parliament. Moonilal claimed to have received a letter from someone who claimed that the Palo Seco Agricultural Enterprises Ltd (PSAEL) had “a constituency list” in which to operate and UNC Alliance constituencies were not on that list.

The Prime Minister replied: “The boundaries for the areas of responsibility are geographical boundaries not political boundaries. Secondly, if the politicians who wish to have things done through SPCs, they approach the Minister of Local Government (his wife Hazel). We are determined to keep the SPCs outside of the realm of political decision making.”

Moonilal rejected Manning’s explanation, claiming this was reflective of the “temerity” displayed by Manning, Caribbean Airlines (CA) chairman Arthur Lok Jack and other government ministers on CA’s plans to acquire a $400 million executive jet.

“The Parliament is not a rotary club. The issue is transparency, accountability and scrutiny of the Executive,” Moonilal declared to desk-thumping from the Opposition benches.

He said there was nothing wrong with the Government increasing the number of state agencies to do its work, provided there were proper mechanisms to scrutinise their activities. However Moonilal said the PNM was not interested in this, having already removed entities liked NEDCO from the Freedom of Information Act and allegedly “retrenched” the Central Tenders Board.

He added the three JSCs in the last Parliament were “an overwhelming success” because they exposed corruption taking place at organisations such as the North-West Regional Health Authority.


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