Opposition senators cry foul during finance bill debate

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Damian Lyder –

TWO opposition senators claimed their contributions in a debate on the variation of Appropriation (Financial Year 2022) Bill, 2022, in the Senate on Friday, were being restricted.

In his contribution, Opposition Senator Damian Lyder claimed Government offered nothing meaningful to the population in the bill. “The Government has not been proactive.” As a businessman, Lyder said he recently had to beg a commercial bank for a paltry sum of foreign exchange to conduct a simple matter.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert objected on several occasions about matters being raised by Lyder which were not relevant to the debate or had been raised by senators before him. Senate Vice-President Dr Muhammad Yunnus Ibrahim upheld Imbert’s objections. Ibrahim also advised Lyder that some of his comments were also raised by members of his own bench before him.

He rejected Lyder’s appeal for additional speaking time. Ibrahim advised him to use his remaining time wisely rather than using it, merely to make objections.

Lyder complained that government and independent senators were being given greater latitude in their contributions compared to opposition senators. Imbert questioned whether the Opposition was challenging a ruling of a presiding officer. He reminded senators this was a contempt of Parliament.

Lyder eventually ended his contribution. Opposition Senator Wade Mark later reiterated Lyder’s claims about opposition senators’ contributions being restricted in the debate.

“We cannot continue with this abuse of the standing orders.”

Referring to the Senate’s standing orders, Ibrahim told Mark there was no basis for such an allegation.

Later in the sitting, Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture Nigel De Freitas said the Opposition had no one to blame but themselves if they were being irrelevant.

“Elevate your content.”