Thursday, December 19, 2013

Less speaking time in House

MPs past and present are divided on the issue of how much speaking time they should have. Some agree with the proposed changes to the Standing Orders of Parliament, which would cut down the speaking time of MPs from 75 minutes to 40 minutes, saying this would reduce the amount of time they have to talk foolishness. Others, like former prime minister Basdeo Panday, appear baffled as to the rationale behind the proposed changes; charging it was an underhand plot to cut down on the working hours of MPs.

And there are those, like Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, who noted that a motion on the matter is yet to be brought before the House and debated and, in truth, it may not even become a reality. Khan said, as is fitting for a well-behaved public servant, he did not, and should not, have a personal opinion on the matter. Former energy minister Conrad Enill, who was a senator in the last administration, said the matter was not a new one. “This was something that was under review for a long time.”

Enill agreed the speaking time should be cut down. “Under the current system, in the Lower House an MP has 45 minutes to talk and an extension of 30 minutes. In many instances, people spend all their time talking about all kinds of matters except that which is being debated. There are 28 MPs downstairs and if you multiply that by 75 minutes for one bill, where is it going to lead?” Enill asked. “The changes will help them make more efficient use of their time.”

Enill said the fact that nobody might be listening to them was of no consequence to MPs, since the main thing was that what they were saying was being recorded by Hansard. He said the speaking time would be different in different jurisdictions because of the differing number of MPs. “In England, you have 200 or 300 MPs, for instance,” he said. Donna Cox, MP for Laventille East/Morvant, readily agreed that the speaking time should be cut down.

“I am one who always felt the speaking time was too long. You have people speaking irrelevant things and we have to be there until two or three in the morning to listen to them,” Cox said. “I think in half an hour, with a ten-minute extension, you should be able to say a lot. Because many times people have too much time for picong and ole talk. If they know they have a stipulated time, they will get to the point and would not have the time to say things irrelevant to the bill.”

Panday, however, felt the cause of the problem needed examining. “Why do they want to cut down on the speaking time? They meet once a week, and not every Friday either. They are trying to hold less Parliament and have less talk.” Panday said the very name Parliament means to talk. 

“Parliament is derived from a French expression which means to talk. The purpose of Parliament is to talk out your differences instead of killing each other. Parliament should meet every day,” Panday said. “So what’s the problem? Are they irrelevant? There are standing orders to deal with that. If it’s because they are talking foolishness, they will only talk less foolishness.”

Panday said: “I think it’s a reaction to my call for constitutional reform. They are trying to hoodwink the people by saying we have reformed the standing orders.” Khan noted there were existing standing orders to deal with MPs who are irrelevant, tedious or repetitive.
He said: “The Speaker could direct him to take his seat and cut his speaking time.” “I go according to what the system says.”  

The Standing Orders Committee report was laid in Parliament recently and the Government plans to have the House debate it early next year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bas, Ram and Jack

Among the three of them, Basdeo Panday, Jack Warner and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj have accumulated 220 years on earth. You would think that these three geezers, having experienced a spread of political permutations, from the crown colony system and colonialism to independence and republicanism, would have also accumulated the wisdom to discern that they have long passed their political-expiry dates.
But no, not them. The aphrodisiac that accompanies power is so potent it deludes geriatrics into believing that they can return from the dead if they make enough noise. So last Sunday, amidst media-hype that would normally be generated by new, exciting prospects on the political landscape, the three summoned an assembly of geezers—probably 40,000 cumulative years among the 300 or so dinosaurs in the hall—to declare war on Kamla and launch a bid to recapture leadership of the UNC.
Mark you, this should be none of my business, or, indeed yours. If old people want to play the ox, if they wish to rattle their dentures, shake their pillboxes, they should be encouraged to so do since such exercise might well lift their spirits. As a geezer myself, I sometimes feel like shaking a leg, hoping in the process I don’t break a leg or damage a joint.
It is good for old people to have fun. But there is a limit to the mischief they should be allowed, and I verily believe that Bas, Ram and Jack crossed the boundary last week. Ostensibly, the meeting was supposed to a gathering of ex-sugar workers and cane farmers seeking to have the Kamla-led Government honour its promise on the 2010 campaign trail to give them land, house, money, toute bagai.
Except for accusing Kamla of not distributing plots of land promised to the ex-sugar workers (the Government has distributed around 2,000 plots, I believe), feature speaker Bas flayed the current leadership of the UNC for sins aplenty and called on the gathering of geezers to “take back your party”.
Take back what party? Didn’t Panday say that a party is not like a cow, it cannot be bought or sold or transferred? I suppose that was yesterday, or yesteryear in his case, and today is today.
Bottom line is Bas has suffered with acute political constipation ever since 2010 when Kamla and a bunch of relatively young activists won control of the UNC by a ten-to-one landslide, which, in Sparrow’s lingo, was unholy murder. In fact, Jack was part of that “sampat” in which Ramesh, too, was over-mauled.
What the membership signalled to Bas in those elections was that while they thanked him for what he had done for them, it was time to move on. He had managed to manipulate the UNC into office in 1995 by courting his sworn enemy, Ray Robinson, and his two Tobago seats. Bas would later lead the party to its sole electoral victory under his leadership in 2000. After that, it was a case of “wetting after wetting” until they cast Bas aside. 
Coming to think of it, as leader of the ULF/UNC, Bas led his people to six general elections defeats, with one clear victory and two draws. That is an unenviable record that, in most cases, would have seen the leader resign, or the people boot him out for having failed them so miserably.
Last Sunday, he was boldfaced enough to claim that the party’s internal elections had been rigged in 2010 (by whom, pray?), and to dub the gathering of geezers “stupid” for being lured by promises that politicians never fulfil. 
In a speech in which he stuttered and stumbled and often missed his cue, the ageing worrier sought to rally his geriatric forces in a battle that is lost before the first spittle gets past the lips. And wicked Ram and Jack, knowing the futility of the exercise, this charge of the blight brigade that is doomed to fail before it starts, applaud, egging the man onward when even the blind can see this is a case of backward ever, forward never.
Look, I have no interest in the internal affairs of the UNC or any other party. I belong to none and I am beholden to no one—which is why I can say what I think without fear, and most definitely without seeking any favours.
It does bother me, though, when I see and hear politicians make oxen of themselves. Bas, Ram and Jack should thank their gods for having granted them long lives and good health. They should be thankful, too, for having enjoyed offices they might never have attained in sane and sober societies. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
To engage in mischief in their political after-lives is to invite karma worse than purgatory. Leave Kamla and the cabal to the membership of the UNC and ultimately to the electorate. 
In any event, who created these people politically? Bas did. Kamla is his handiwork, he her Guru. He manufactured Moonilal from dirt, Suruj from scratch. Why complain now?

Monday, December 9, 2013

RamJack, Panday in talks

Once they were sworn enemies. Now it appears former prime minister Basdeo Panday, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj,  SC, and Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner have found unity in a common enemy—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Yesterday the trio, together with ILP deputy leaders Lyndira Oudit and Anna Deonarine, Banking Insurance and General Workers Trade Union president general Vincent Cabrera and an unidentified man in a COP shirt, held private talks at the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union conference room, Rienzi Complex, Couva. Former UNC MP Mikela Panday was also in the meeting.

Photographers attempted to get a photograph of the three men in the conference room. However, Panday refused. He said, “Why should I prostitute myself for a picture.” The photographers were then told to leave the room by an official who said they were about to have “private meeting.” Their meeting followed a mass conference with cane farmers and ex-Caroni workers on the upper floor of Rienzi Complex which was packed. Attendees lined the back and sides of the conference area as all the seats were filled.

At that meeting Panday, who delivered the feature address, called on the farmers and ex-workers to rise up and reclaim the United National Congress (UNC) from the Persad-Bissessar-led executive. This was also echoed by Maharaj in his address. He said the UNC ship, its captain and crew have “run aground.” “I will try to save the ship. I will work with anyone to save the ship, but I cannot say I will be able to save the captain and the crew,” Maharaj said.

Both he and Panday argued that the party has abandoned its founding principles. Maharaj said he remains a member of the UNC since he has lifetime membership and cannot sit by and watch the party’s base, the sugar workers, being disrespected. He said the residential and agricultural leases that have been issued to the ex-Caroni workers are “not worth the paper” they are printed on. 

Maharaj, who declared that he was “blasted vex,” tore a copy of a residential lease during his speech. He said the workers were betrayed and should have received deeds of conveyance not leases. The deeds, he said, would give them ownership of the lands unlike the leases which come with stipulations. He said if the workers breach the stipulations the land can be taken away from them. “They provoking me,” Maharaj declared.

Yesterday Panday urged the workers to press the UNC executive to call internal elections in the party, which he said, were “long overdue.” He also urged them to contest the elections and ensure that it is free and fair. “You must not allow what happened in the 2010 to happen again,” he said. He said the People’s Partnership government is no different from the People’s National Movement (PNM) since it has turned its back on the very people—the sugar workers, who put them in power.

The sugar workers, he said, never expected that the PP would have betrayed them. “The PP government is ten times worse that their former tormentors,” Panday told ex-Caroni workers. Panday said the current UNC is not the UNC that the sugar workers gave their blood, sweat and tears to build and they must reclaim what is theirs. “You must take back your party, you must that back what is yours, what you gave birth too,” he urged.

He told the ex-Caroni workers that they are being disrespected by the current UNC executive and the government. “The time has come for you to stand up and protest. They treat you like dogs because they believe that you will be satisfied with bones,” Panday declared.
He described the residential and agricultural leases that were being distributed to the workers as a “con game” since no bank would accept the lease as security for loans.

He also questioned the drafting of the leases and the timing of the distribution of the leases, 441 of which were handed out last Wednesday in Couva. Panday stressed the need for constitutional reform so promises made by parties, such as the those made by the UNC to the former workers, will be enshrined in law and if they breach the promises they will be breaking a contract.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Panday, Ramesh to address UNC base supporters

Former political leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Basdeo Panday and attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj will mount one stage next Sunday, to  address the plight and concerns of former sugar workers and cane farmers. The former sugar workers and cane farmers are known as the UNC’s base supporters. The meeting will be held at Rienzi Complex, Couva, at 2 pm. The duo will discuss benefits promised to the farmers and issues that are affecting them.

Other speakers will include Nirvan Maharaj, president general of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union, Thomas Sotillio, secretary of the former Cane Farmers’ Association of T&T, and Mickela Panday. The former workers argued that the policy of the UNC has always been that former sugar workers and cane farmers should be compensated following the closure of Caroni 1975 Ltd.

The former leaders of the sugar estate and factory workers union, and the former Cane Farmers Association have asked Panday and Maharaj to address them, and to assist them in getting the present Government to honour the UNC policy for sugar workers and cane farmers. Panday publicly stated that he had been inundated with calls and requests from party supporters to intervene in the UNC “to restore the party to its pristine glory.”

He also admitted that if UNC supporters want him to contest the UNC’s upcoming internal elections as chairman. he would do so. Panday said that he considered it his duty as founder of the party, to assist in rescuing it. Maharaj, who said he has no interest in electoral politics, is in the process of launching a non political organisation called “Democracy Watch,” which will be involved in educating the population on politics.

Source: Trinidad Guardian