Hinds annoys UNC with rat comments

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds. File photo/Roger Jacob

NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds stirred up anger amongst Opposition UNC MPs with his use of the word “rats” in the House of Representatives on Monday.

He was contributing to debate on a motion to approve a report from a joint select committee on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill, 2020,

Earlier in the sitting, Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran complained of inequity in the distribution of resources between PNM and UNC-controlled local government corporations. He cited this as a reason why corporations were unable to deal with issues such as pest control.

Seecharan claimed the slightest shower in Port of Spain sends hundreds of “soggy rats fleeing from flooded drains.”

He also claimed the city corporation’s efforts to deal with rat infestation were unsuccessful.

“They are not eating the poison being left for them. They enjoy local foods like fried chicken, roti and doubles.”

Opposition MPs thumped their desks as Seecharan boasted that the population yearned for Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to be re-elected prime minister in 2025.

In response, Hinds said, “He could not wish for worse upon us.”

One of local government’s responsibilities is disaster management.

Government MPs thumped their desks as Hinds quipped, “What a disaster (Persad-Bissessar’s re-election) that would be.”

He acknowledged Seecharan’s comments about the health risks posed by rats.

“Rats are indeed very hardy creatures. In 2010, I think this country saw a new breed of rats.” Responding to complaints from Opposition MPs, Speaker Brigid Annisette-George advised Hinds to proceed with caution.

Hinds replied, “You will see where I’m going. This breed is as hardy as…”

Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram interrupted Hinds, accusing him of imputing improper motives to the UNC.

Annisette-George overruled Ratiram and reiterated her caution to Hinds, but allowed him to continue his contribution.

Hinds recalled that former UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government minister Gerald Hadeed had also spoken about rats.

“The rats he spoke about are so hardy, they do far more that run the threat of the disease (leptospirosis) of which he (Seecharan) spoke. They attacked the Treasury.”

Hinds agreed with an earlier comment by Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales that the UNC has a low opinion of local government.

“They probably spell the word (local) ‘lowcal.’ They come from a position of ill will.”

Hinds scoffed at a minority report the UNC had attached to the JSC report on the bill. He said should parliamentarians on a JSC object to elements of a report produced by that committee, they should elaborate those objections and related recommendations in detail in any attached minority report.

The UNC did not do this.

“When you look at the minority report, so-called, you see the old, traditional, stuffy style of the UNC. The document is almost naked.”

Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit complained to Annisette-George after Hinds identified her as one of the UNC members of the JSC.

Mohit claimed, “This member continues to be very insulting in his terminologies against me.”

She said she would not tolerate it.

Annisette-George cautioned Hinds again on his language.

Hinds replied. “I was commenting on the skimpy report,” saying he was confused about what Mohit was offended by.

Hinds also claimed that under the PP, certain private contractors undermined the work which would have normally been undertaken by local government corporations.