PNM, UNC MPs quote scripture in budget debate

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Parliament’s procedural clerk Keiba Jacob Mottley, from left, Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland and Finance Minister Colm Imbert at the reception of the ceremonial Opening of the 3rd Session of the 12th Republican Parliament on September 12. Scotland quoted Psalm 1 in the budget debate on Saturday. – File photo/Sureash Cholai

Church came a day early for some parliamentarians as PNM and UNC MPs in their budget presentations took from the word of the Lord to preach to the other side.

MPs Dr Rai Ragbir and Keith Scotland both quoted scripture on the second day of debate on the 2022-2023 budget which was read on Monday last.

Ragbir, the Cumuto Manzanilla MP, opened his parliamentary sermon with Acts, Chapter 2, verse 14.

“Peter was a unreliable leader,” he said. “His bravado however was his downfall and he even denied Jesus. Jesus forgave him and he filled with the holy spirit. Then he displayed confidence, humility and boldness and he became a powerful dynamic speaker. Deputy Speaker, I am here today filled with the holy spirit.”

“Let my words resonate in the hearts and minds of everyone that is suffering, that you would pray it will be a better day tomorrow.”

Not to be outdone, Scotland, the MP for Port of Spain South, had scripture of his own.

“The honourable member of Cumuto/Manzanilla said he’s filled with the holy spirit. And he sits on the other side while quoting scripture. So I’ll quote scripture for you.”

Quoting from Psalm 1, he said: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the ungodly. Nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Scotland then moved on to knock the Chaguanas East MP, Vandana Mohit ,for unfair remarks about the state of the country.

UNC Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Dr Rai Ragbir quoted from Acts, Chapter 2 during the budget debate on Saturday. – File photo/Sureash Cholai

“Madam speaker, the honourable member for Chaguanas East in her presentation spewed a cacophony of words that began with ‘dis’. But what the honourable member forgot to mention in her discourse is that since September 2015, TT is disinterested in the UNC. Therefore, at the polls we treated them with disdain. Under the distinguished leadership of the Prime Minister and the discipline and financial stewardship of the Minister of Finance this country need not despair.”

“Members of the other side stop your persistent peddling of gloom and doom in TT. Stop dissing our country.”

Ragbir spoke on one of the highlights of the budget, in which Finance Minister Colm Imbert said government allotted $200 million for healthcare workers as thanks for their efforts during the pandemic. He said the nurses most of all, needed the money.

“Nurses account for 59 per cent of our healthcare professionals. I hope they get the money soon.”

Also during the debate, Communications Minister Symon De Nobriga knocked what he called “misinformation” by the Opposition, saying that it is a threat to the nation’s democracy.

“Unfortunately, much of the misinformation that emanates from those opposite is spread on social media and in such an environment; it is increasingly difficult for citizens to judge the integrity of information being spewed at them on a daily basis.”

He responded to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s claim on Friday about spoke an alleged strategic plan to axe 2,500 WASA workers. He said that the PNM had no such plan.

“The only strategic plan that I know that has been authorised and approved by this government (is) for Strategic Action Plan, dated January 2022,” he said. “The member for Siparia spoke about what she had seen on page 53. So I turned to that. On page 53 of this report, Mr Deputy Speaker there is no conversation anywhere around retrenching, letting people go or sending people home.”

However, he said he came across a letter from May 2012 during the PP administration where then CEO of WASA, Ganga Singh proposed to reduce staff from 4,736 people to about 2,500 over a period of 48 months.

“They offend this country in general and its supporters in particular, with a consistent diet of misinformation…When we do this, where are we going as a nation? What do we expect to see? We saw what happened in jurisdictions much further north than on January 6 (the storming of Capitol Hill in the US). Is that what we are trying to get this country to? I make a simple claim that in my opinion, this Opposition with the misinformation campaign is a threat to the democracy.”

Ragbir responded saying that government did in fact review a programme for retrenchment. He also referred to the Finance Minister’s “they haven’t rioted yet” comment in 2016.

“You laughed as the fuel price went up five times,” he said.