The debate on the Finance Bill devolved into a shouting match several times between the Government and the Opposition yesterday and forced Senate vice president Nigel De Freitas to his feet to quell the rising tempers and keep the debate focused on the topic.
Opposition Senator Anil Roberts delivered a passionate contribution and criticised the details of the Government Finance (No.2) Bill.
The Bill seeks to criminalise Ponzi and pyramid schemes.
Roberts commended the Government on the launch of the Green Economy idea, saying that it seemed to have already started in Tobago, referring to the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ win over the PNM there.
“It will turn the whole island green and yellow just now,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that the PNM showed that they were out of touch with the people and questioned why the Government was spending money to outfit a port when they planned on selling it.
“This Finance Bill is the PNM’s answer, presents measures that the PNM believes is going to assist our economy and our people. Yes everything, every clause in here, they make the rich richer and the masses more marginalised,” he said.
He said the Finance Bill was the implementation of the PNM’s road to recover plan that was now “purchased by the rich.”
“While the poor, downtrodden, average citizen is left lost,” he said.
Roberts said that the Finance Bill was the best evidence that the PNM was “totally out of touch” with the average citizens.
He said that the Minister of Finance came to debate the Bill but came with no new information only cited media reports.
“I thought I was going to listen to hear some financial reports, investigative reports from the FIU, from the Central Bank, some National Security Council information, something serious. But we read the same media reports,” Roberts said.
Roberts said people tuned to large sou-sou schemes like the popular DSS because they were desperate.
“The PNM comes now to attack DSS based on media reports?” Roberts asked.
He said that while the Government was determined to protect the interest of the billion-dollar banks but not the small man.
“Why is this PNM Government only passionate about the rich?” Roberts said, adding that it was this attitude that lost them Tobago.
“And Trinidad is waiting to go yellow, so call it,” Roberts said.
In an immediate rebuttal, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said he could answer Robert’s questions about lack of values in one word.
“Lifesport,” the Attorney General said.
“Where was that passion when T&T was subjected to $500 million, nearly half a billion dollars in expenditure that found itself in the hands of criminals before the courts of T&T. Where was the voice of the then Minister, now Senator who just spoke in defending the taxpayers from double-dipping and triple-dipping,” Al-Rawi asked.
He said a box lunch cost $7 but was going for $100 within the Lifesport programme.
“Where was the passion of the Honourable Member in ensuring that gang activity did not end up in allegation of murder in this country,” the AG said.
Al-Rawi issued a word of warning to Roberts.
“A man who has a history such as that should be very careful to give advice to the people of this country,” he said.
While his cohorts thumped the table, Opposition Senator Wade Mark sought to have him muzzled Senate vice president De Freitas cautioned him to stick to the debate topic, the AG insisted that he had the right to reply to Roberts.
“He is no person that this Government would take any advice from. None at all,” Al-Rawi said.