That was the accusation hurled by Opposition MPs at Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday as he replied – sometimes acerbically– to their queries on the Tobago House of Assembly’s $2.3billion allocation for 2022
Imbert and UNC MPs clashed during yesterday’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC) examination of THA’s allocation in Parliament.
Imbert embellished his replies to Opposition queries with jabs about their unfamiliarity with Tobago and UNC’s lack of contesting there.
THA polls are December 6. PNM released its candidates yesterday.
UNC MPs grilling Imbert were Rudy Indarsingh, David Lee, Khadijah Ameen, Ravi Rajcoomar, Arnold Ram, Saddam Hosein and Dave Tancoo.
After queries on various sums, when Indarsingh sought clarification on amounts for culture, Imbert asked: “You’re opposed to culture? Why do you all dislike Tobagonians?”
Indarsingh said, “He is campaigning in his role as PNM’s chairman.”
Indarsingh said he had no problem in using the SFC for that but UNC was committed to asking about allocations, “We’re not objecting, just enquiring,” he said.
Imbert said sums were for programmes since it was obvious that with safe zone opening there would be more activity than when restrictions were on. If they didn’t see that, he said he was entitled to consider, “If you all don’t like Tobagonians.”
Imbert said he’d provide more information, “But you see me attacking Tobago culture?” he asked,
Indarsingh said, “You’re abusing your position as PNM chairman!”
Ameen, who said, Imbert was attempting baseless division added, “You’re trying to divide T&T….He’s campaigning !”
Another UNC MP said if Imbert wasn’t stopped he’d continue.
To queries on funding for surgical and state of the art medical systems, Imbert also said he had hate to think UNC didn’t want cancer treatment in Tobago.
He said he had provide them with information for all short term employment and “put an end to this nit-picking.”
Indarsingh said it was about accountability and transparency. Imbert replied, “ Yes- I know you have great representation in Tobago..I know you have great interest there where you haven’t contested an election in 100 years,”
“I’m a citizen of Trinidad AND Tobago,” Indarsingh retorted.
Imbert told UNC they didn’t know where Tobago’s main ridge is where rehabilitation is being done as no one lives there.
Hosein said, “I know where the multi-dwelling building is on Picton Street.”
On contract officers, Imbert insisted the “maths was mathsing.”
On projects for the Cove area he told Indarsingh, “You know where the Cove is? I’ll carry you there.’’
Imbert said he knew a lot about Tobago since his grandfather was magistrate there in 1949 – 52
Imbert said funds to cover a lawsuit were needed after “misguided members of the minority THA opposition” sued the Assembly’s clerk recently.
Imbert said $50 million is provided to facilitate grants for hotel/tourism operators hard hit by the pandemic.
He said it wasn’t like a SME soft loan such as was offered last year but it’s for grants since this was a unique situation.
A new project THA is now finalising, involves several abandoned underutilised industrial estates which will be revived by THA and used to encourage farming.
Sinanan grilled on flooding, potholes.
Works Minister Rohan Sinanan was also grilled by the UNC on flooding, potholes.
MP Rodney Charles asked if funding was enough to handle the “plethora of potholes” in his area.
On Rajcoomar’s query on manpower to clean water courses , Sinanan said the ministry is almost at full complement in Drainage Divisions.
He said there will be vacancies but doesn’t affect fixing equipment and the Drainage Division is also doing a “fantastic job”.
Rajcoomar said,”They haven’t been doing a fantastic job. People have been flooded out.
Sinanan said the ministry can’t stop flooding but only mitigates against it .
He said when the rain stops, the water runs off and there wasn’t any country that got the sort of rainfall as T&T with infrastructure to handle the situation once and for all.”
On query about one Sharda Satram asking for people to be employed in URP, Sinanan said Satram isn’t a public servant but “civilian”, URP was a programme where anyone can get jobs including recommended by UNC MPs – and that matter was addressed where URP’s Programme Director.