Government fields last round of opposition questions

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Members of the House of Representives stand for a minute of silence in Parliament on Friday, in honour of the passing of Queen Elizabeth on Thursday. – Sureash Cholai

GOVERNMENT ministers fielded a final flurry of questions from opposition MPs as the House of Representatives held its final sitting of the current parliamentary session on Friday.

The session ended on midnight on Friday.

The new parliamentary session begins at the Red House in Port of Spain on September 12 from 1.30 pm with a ceremonial opening.

This event will feature an address by President Paula-Mae Weekes to a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture Avinash Singh told MPs approval is being sought from the Toxic Chemicals and Pesticides Board to obtain the pesticide metaldehyde to kill the giant African snail. He said recent heavy rain had created an environment for the snails to thrive in and the ministry is moving from a strategy of eradication to management.

While there has always been a task force in the ministry to deal with the problems posed by the snails, Singh said for the first time, the ministry is including expertise from the private sector.

“This is really an issue we have to deal with.”

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George disallowed a question from Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram about losses farmers may have suffered because of Government’s alleged incompetence in dealing with the snail.

Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis dismissed claims by Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh that any member of the Cabinet had recently bought or leased lands owned by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in his constituency.

A few minutes later, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales reminded Indarsingh that a TSTT’s board, and not Cabinet sub-committee appointed to examine its operations, was responsible for decisions on TSTT’s restructuring.

Annisette-George disallowed a question from Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein about an unnamed official at TSTT earning a salary of $75,000 a month.

Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe said a question from Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram about accommodation for a tennis academy was not properly researched. She told Ratiram the academy has been using the tennis courts at Nelson Mandela Park in Port of Spain and the courts at the Police Barracks in St James.

While the academy has told the ministry it would seek assistance in finding another location to operate from, Cudjoe told Ratiram that request has not come to the ministry as yet.

“English language is a specifice thing.”

Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi reiterated his criticism of a UNC boycott of a recent forum with local government representatives as he said two landslips in the Naparima constituency will be repaired at a cost of $5.5 million. Al-Rawi told MPs that if everyone adopted the UNC’s approach to local government reform, “We will go nowhere.”

The House later approved motions to continue work on several pieces of legislation before Parliament in the new session. Among them are the whistleblower bill and Tobago autonomy bills.