Kamla: Moruga grant distribution a PNM election offence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar – File photo

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has claimed the PNM has committed an election offence ahead of the June 17 local government by-election in Lengua/Indian Walk.

She made this allegation after she voted in the UNC’s internal elections, at Debe Secondary School on Saturday.

“There is a very serious issue and my lawyers and myself as a lawyer, we are looking at that issue.”

Persad-Bissessar recalled that in addition to the Lengua/Indian Walk by election on June17, another by-election will take place in Quinam/Morne Diablo.

In the former, she said, “The PNM has come on the eve of the election, a couple days ago, to give out over $1 million in grants for housing, fixing houses and so on. Over $1 million. That is clearly an election offence.”

On June 12, Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis addressed a ceremony at the Moruga Multi-purpose Sport and Youth Facility to distribute Housing Development Corporation (HDC) grants and subsidies.

Robinson-Regis, who is also PNM lady vice-chairman, defended the decision to distribute the grants and subsidies on that date, in light of the June 17 by-elections.

“It takes a while for us to go through the procedure of vetting people and making sure they qualify for these grants and subsidies. It so happens that it is coinciding with the by-election.

Persad-Bissessar vowed that whatever happens in the Lengua/Indian Walk by election on June17, “we will pursue that.”

She questioned why the grants and subsidies were not distributed last year or earlier this year.

“You come a few days before that by-election in Lengua/Indian Walk to give out over $1 million in housing grants. That has to be very, very, clearly an offence.”

Persad-Bissessar encouraged all UNC supporters to vote in the June 17 by-elections.

“Come out and cast your vote. Every vote counts.”

Contacted for a response on Saturday, the Prime Minister called Persad-Bissessar’s election-offence claims hypocritical.

In a Whatsapp reply to Newsday, Dr Rowley recalled that during the St Joseph by-election in 2013, Persad-Bissessar as prime minister announced 20 Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) projects in the constituency to support UNC candidate Ian Alleyne.

“She didn’t care about ‘election offence’ then.”

Rowley said as soon as Alleyne lost, all those projects were stopped.

In the same by-election, he continued, the Agriculture Ministry worked overtime on election week to prepare flood-relief cheques for the people of Aranguez for a flood nobody could remember.”

Rowley said, “Those cheques were handed out on election Sunday. She didn’t have anything against election offence then.”

He added that he was glad Persad-Bissessar knew what an election offence was.

“That tells me that she is not as hopeless as some believe and that she is capable of learning.”