SPEAKING NOTES OF
THE HONOURABLE KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, SC, MP
POLITICAL LEADER OF THE UNITED NATIONAL CONGRESS
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
Monday 24th January 2022
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Good evening all with us here in this space and all the others who are in another space — thank you for joining us this evening.
I want to thank all of the powerful dynamic speakers tonight. We have been indeed very blessed to have such dynamic speakers and persons — all who are devoted to fighting for all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
And if I may — I want to single out one of them tonight. I want to salute a citizen, who has been taking a stand for democracy and the protection of the rights of our citizens — of everyone in our nation.
Let’s salute Mr Victor Roberts.
Victor spent 3 days last week standing peacefully from 6am to 6pm outside the Hall of Justice. He did this all in the name of defending your rights and our democracy against this wicked, vicious, corrupted, incompetent Rowley regime.
I had the pleasure of visiting him, as many of us did — and during his protest I spoke to him briefly. I want you to look at this video.
Thank you Victor. Let’s salute him again. Thank you so much. And I emphasise the point that he was standing for the entire day. I know many moons ago, there was a gentleman, Lincoln Myers — he fasted on the Hall of Justice for a long time but he was sitting. He sat on the steps on the Hall of Justice.
Do you know that Victor was not even on the steps of the Hall of Justice? He was on the pavement. And one day after I visited Victor, suddenly security came harassing the man and telling him — he can’t stay there, he can’t sit there but he wasn’t even sitting. But he couldn’t be there.
And that is why I asked him in the video — is there any law? I don’t know of any law that says you cannot stand up on the pavement. Anybody know of any law? There is no law! And that’s where we say that this government has become a government — one law for themselves, one law for everybody else. Everybody else to “ketch”. But they make sure to take care of themselves, their friends, their financiers and their families.
So they began to threaten Victor with jail and so on. As I said, he wasn’t even sitting down, he was standing. He did not make any noise. He was there peacefully. And what do they want to do? Lock him up and jail him!
They say now, there is no evidence to charge Rowley for breaking COVID regulations when the man openly confessed that he was breaking the regulations. But you want to lock up Victor for standing up on a pavement. So if you wanted to know why Victor was standing there — he told us tonight — he spoke here and we heard him there. And my concern is this is happening throughout Trinidad and Tobago. When residents of Barrackpore protested, I think the same Rohan Roodal spoke about — he sent a bill for them to fix the road. But when they protested in Beetham, there was no bill on how to fix the road, or how much to pay for it. Then they went in — using policemen to go into those areas harassing the citizens who had been out in the protest and so on.
One of them is a strong UNC activist. They gave him some kind of traffic offence — harassing citizens for expressing peacefully; standing up for their rights. And so when it comes to tear gassing children they have no problem with that. They have no problem tear gassing citizens who are peacefully demonstrating. But yet, when a man openly breaks the law — saying that he was in Tobago on the beach and he broke the law — nothing is wrong with that! He gets off scot-free. But you want to harass Victor! You want to harass residents everywhere else who stand up for their own rights!
I want to say therefore, the UNC has launched a Legal Committee. Yes, we have lawyers helping when things happen but we are formalising that arrangement. So that we will use this legal committee to protect you when you are threatened, harassed and being abused by this wicked government through the arm of the TTPS.
This committee will provide legal services for anyone where your rights are being trampled upon by this dictator government, anyone! Now that could be not granting permission for the open pyre cremations and so on. They want to force you to reveal your private medical information. And what is the big stick they are holding over you — is that if you don’t disclose it, you can’t come to work. Do not come to work, you are not getting paid! They want to get your private medical information. Again, that is your constitutional right. So we are saying — anyone that is being discriminated against or abused by this wicked government, the UNC will stand with and for you. We will fight for you!
So we will show this dictator Rowley that the people of this country are no push-overs. And therefore, we fight for your rights. And I want to make it very clear — come to the MPs offices, go to the Councillors offices and let us please take your facts and we can see how best we can help you.
However, I will put a disclaimer on this. We will not participate in assisting you with your private law rights. Because if you cannot afford private law rights — that is if you have a dispute with your neighbour or with somebody else about property or lands — those are private law matters. You can go to the legal aid authority who will give you free legal advice. So you are not left in the cold.
But when it comes to the abuse by the state, by the government or their entities —we will stand with you and fight them for you. Because of those cases, very few lawyers take them. Anand Ramlogan is one of the most outstanding lawyers when it comes to public law. So in the public law arena, we will stand with you and fight for you.
So Rowley be warned! Already your AG has lost so many cases. And you know, they will stand up and cry about the lawyers from South. What do you have against the lawyers from South? And like you forgot Faris, that you are also a lawyer from South? When you are condemning lawyers, you are one from South. Have you abandoned the South? We believe you have, because the constituents in San Fernando are saying daily that you are doing nothing for them in San Fernando. So, you have abandoned the south land.
So here we are! We offer this service free of charge! Did I say that before? Let me make it clear. Legal committee is being set up and we have many lawyers in the UNC. As we have many doctors, plumbers, teachers , taxi-drivers — we have people from all walks of life. I think Victor put it right — all races, all creeds, all religions in the UNC and we are a competent set of people. Dr Moonilal talked to you — they built a road, it collapsed. The contract in the hospital block collapsed.
Could I tell you something? This government has collapsed. The Rowley government has collapsed. And what is going on with them is that they are so busy fighting themselves. They do not have time to deal with the issues in the country. You may want to know how I knew that. Well Rowley, I am not telling you. Go and ask them! Your own people. Your own MPs and Ministers fighting down each other! What are they fighting for? They are looking for the day they want to replace you.
So those of you who worried about who is replacing me — I thank God the UNC gave me 12 years as your Leader. I thank God! I thank you in the UNC for your love and support throughout all these years. It’s not easy but whoever said life is easy. Life is difficult and we have to make the most of it.
Those stories coming out of the PNM camp show plenty of fighting going on. Last week when I spoke to you, I talked about Faris, who came with this fireworks law, remember? Hinds came and “cussed” it up, Stuart Young “cussed” it up, well I have been told and they can deny it, Faris hired some lawyers, his favourite lawyers, we won’t even have to name them, to go down to do some case for the Ministry of National Security. I am told and Fitzy I am asking you? I am told you fired them. You fired the lawyers hired by your own Attorney General. What on earth is going on if you all are so busy fighting each other. Do you have time to take care of the people? Victor gave a heart searching story about what is happening with the covid, what is happening down in Point Fortin. You are too busy fighting each other. If you are not too busy fighting each other for whatever it may be, you are too busy making money. You all have become, instead of a government running the country for the people, by the people, of the people, you all have become a criminal corruption enterprise.
Busy, busy, busy trying to make money and more money. What happens in the dark must come to light and each day more and more are coming. Talking about our legal team, I want to endorse what Dr. Moonilal said, we are asking for commission of enquiries into the collapse into the contract for the Central Block. We need to find out what happened with the collapse of that. Dr. Moonilal gave some points earlier on what happened on the highway. What happened down there? It is also part of the Geographic discrimination that Khemraj spoke about.
We were building the one from San Fernando, and we reached Debe. From Debe we will go through San Francique etc, go down to Siparia into Fyzabad. It had no mangrove that was going to get damaged.
What you have done now is not an engineering disaster but you created a real disaster for that mangrove. They were so busy not to build the road through Debe, San Francique, Penal down to Siparia into Fyzabad.
No, No they want to build this thing on the shore line. Look what has happened? You want to build it under cost. Dr. Moonilal told us about the materials, always looking for a way out, to make a dollar for yourself. I don’t know if it is true but we are asking. Moonilal asked, are you using these contractors to pill up the Balisier house? Are you looking after yourself and short changing on the work to be done? This is where I say this government has to account to the people.
You will see something happened in the parliament today and on Friday. They came to parliament to say they are varying expenditure. How much they are spending. They are varying that expenditure and what they are doing, they are taking x dollars from various items, heads of expenditure they are called and they are going to put them elsewhere.
The frightening thing is where they want to remove that expenditure from. What it is they are cutting in other words. What are the reasons for cutting them? I will come back to that but I want to say I am totally disgusted by what I saw happening in the parliament today. I was totally disgusted. When we say this is a run away, Dictatorship Government, no accountability to the people. You are coming to move monies that you budgeted for since 2020.
They passed the budget 2020. The fiscal year is called 2021 because it runs from September 2020, down into September 2021. You are now coming to the parliament to deal with whatever. No Finance committee was held, so the cabinet decided to bring it now. Bringing expenditures from way back then, when you jiggle it and ratchet it and whatever and whatever, then the whole thing makes nonsense and a mockery out of the budgeting process in the country. A budget is not something that is taken lightly, the government by law is required to bring the estimates of expenditure to parliament, when they come to pass a budget.
Those expenditures are looked at by the parliament, go into details, into depth, examined, get transparency and accountabilities of how monies are going to be spent. That money is not theirs. Remember that is tax payers dollars.
That is your dollars. You go through that whole process and we take days, weeks in the parliament, going through this with a fine tooth comb. Then you come and say you want to vary, nothing is wrong, that has happened before. You have that right in law to change, to vary because circumstances may have changed, but when that happens, you cannot come and shut down the MP’S from speaking. You can’t stop them from raising matters and issues in the parliament. When MP’S on behalf of their constituency why did you cut the ADB vote. Why did you cut down the agriculture development bank, why are you cutting it, when we are saying agriculture is the most important thing in the country.
We need to feed ourselves, we need food security, we have to grow more, we have to do more. Why did you cut that vote? When MP Tancoo tried to get an answer, the government through the madam got up and said, No you can’t ask about policy, so you are entitled to give a zero allocation, zero you know. Not just a cut, it was zero.
Today Agriculture Development Bank, how could you do that but we must not ask why? We must not find out why? They said the bank did not ask for the money. I don’t believe that, I don’t know if you believe it but I just don’t believe it. The Bank did not want the money?
You want to tell me that farmers out there and they do not need the loan? Why don’t you be honest and tell us, that what indeed is happening is that you are incompetent. Totally incompetent, Minister of Agriculture has been promising and promising that he will do something about land tenure for the farmers. That is a major blocker, when farmers go to apply for the loan, they say no because you have to prove you own the land. A lot of it is state land. Clarence has been promising that for years. So what is the real reason you cut the ADB and the PNM has always paid lip service to agriculture in this country. Not true?
They have always been lipservice to agriculture and when you watch the food import build is so high and when you are looking now with the pandemic, supply chains are broken, prices will go even higher, food prices will go even higher. Whilst you feel this is a small matter, this is a huge matter, Agriculture food security, is a huge matter. If you can’t eat, you can’t live. The government, not for the first time, has given zero (0) to the ADB because ADB did not ask for money. Why are farmers not applying for loans? Is it covid again? As Moonilal said, covid killed everything in this country. Why did you cut the ADB vote? The expenditures for the ADB.
What did you cut again? Something very dear to us. You have cut the GATE again. The funding for GATE for students. They may want to boast about GATE but that GATE program came from under the Basdeo Panday regime. Remember $ for $ then you changed the name. Having changed the name to GATE we continued the program. Not only did we continue that GATE program because I was very enthused and very much into education. I have shared some of my stories with you about that. Education is the only passport out of poverty. Education is key to a better quality of life.
Many of you sitting here could not be sitting here today if it was not for the education you got. So education is paramount in any society that has the respect for the rights and the freedom of people. It’s a different type of right and freedom but the constitution had a guarantee for right of education. You may or may not know that When we went into office, what we did was to take the GATE and we aligned it to the sectors of national development. What we need to train people in. When you need a plumber or X or Y. I mentioned plumbers specifically because this was not just for university education. Our GATE we opened the gate and we put it out for tech voc education as well. You can go learn a skill, train yourself to become somebody and get a job. You don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer, you can be a plumber, a mason, a carpenter, all of this we were doing through the GATE. We opened that gate to allow these students in.
In terms of national development changes we made supported a very robust and relevant tertiary system. I can boast today that under our watch, we increased participation in the tertiary education sector up to 62%.
That was a great achievement. We took the GATE they had and expanded it, in terms of the amount of funding. At one point $650,000,000, from $575,000,000 we were spending a year and we became more inclusive in bringing in the Tech Voc matters. Since they came into office, hear this story, everything under this PNM just mash up, since 2015 they have systematically destroyed the GATE program.
Since then it has continued every year. This year is not new, the cut for the GATE funding is not new 2021 which is the numbers we are dealing with. In 2016 the funding for GATE dropped it down to about $435,000,000. They brought in the means test, the means test it to keep their friends, family and financiers in place.
That means test was not to help the people who really needed it. That decreased the numbers that would benefit from the GATE. At one point they said if you are over 50 years you can’t get GATE, then changed it to say you can only do one degree and one post- grad. Suppose you are really bright and you want to do two degrees.
No sense in how about what is development and how a country develops. It is through creating skills. You know if a large company comes into Trinidad and Tobago, what are they looking for? Skilled people. Even before they come, they want to know what kind of skill, what kind of labour. The skilled labour force is what they will be looking for.
That is why under my watch we had 48 billion in FDI. 48 Billion, we were creating a society that was tech savvy.
The other day I got an email from someone. The young man who sent it said, I am sending this to you to thank you because when I was in secondary school, you gave me a laptop.
How many years was that now?
He said when I am now in University I am using the same laptop. All those thousands of children we gave that laptop to continue to have them to take them through to be tech savvy to live in a technological world. That’s what we were training our students for.
That’s what we were using GATE for but they have no understanding or idea of the importance of that kind of education and that further level of education.
And so they brought in this thing, I went off on that tangent because i was talking about they saying you can’t get GATE for 2 degrees.
Well I have more than 2 by the way and I didn’t get any GATE and any scholarships. Because in my day, people like me couldn’t get that.
I was a student in London, I worked as a waitress, I worked as a clerk in the Church of England Society. I worked and put myself through school with help from my family and friends. That is why this thing was so important to me to have that GATE for our children to improve and better themselves.
And when they improve their lives then their family also improves. This Govt has no care about that. They cut the GATE funding I’m saying repeatedly and are using all kinds of stores. This one about if you are over 50. I am over 50 so what’s wrong if I want to do another?
I have several of them and I did very well if I boast myself. If you don’t say these about yourself then who would say. Someone has to speak it.
And so the MP’s on our side, the MP’s and Senators, have been trying to find money to help people’s children who come to us all the time.
There was one girl, my staff would remember the long thread of emails. The govt comes to say you all pay nah. And we would give you the money down the road. This long thread for a few years this poor child. Money outstanding, they won’t give her the graduation certificate because she didn’t pay these fees and the Govt won’t pay it even though they ahd agreed to pay it.
They have no understanding to call a student and say well alyuh pay it nah man. Pay it and we will give you it back. But where are they getting the money from? If in the first place they are the vulnerable ones who don’t have the money so the Govt has shown it is not serious about making sensible investments because in a nation the most important is the human resource and the development of your human resource and this Govt has shown they have no care for the development of our human resource.
And today what do they do? Others spoke about what they are doing with CEPEP. And they are cutting two thirds down. Two in every three persons should be fired?! Two in every three, can you imagine the suffering that will follow?
Moonilal has reminded us about 6000 people going on the breadline. In addition to all those who are already on the breadline because of what they have done. If they continue with this quasi safe zone foolishness, how many more thousands will lose their jobs.
Look, wake up T&T. We have to wake up. You have to wake up.
So whilst I talk to you in the narrative form. Let me talk to you on the hard facts, the statistics itself.
Under this government, from 2015, under our last year in office, we spent 650 million for GATE. Guess what. They cut that down when they came in. 2017 they took it down to 504 million in 2018, they took it down to 434 million. In 2019, 435 million. Remember where we started at 650 million.
2020 about 435 and today they approved 320 million. So they come from where we were, 650 million dollars you have cut the GATE and brought it down to about half. 320 million.
What does that mean? That’s just money. And whilst you came to reduce that today, you are busy paying Faris rent. In the same document today there was a transfer to approve money for rents for the Personnel department. That is Faris’s building or his family building.
This man is so shameless. He is so shameless. That’s why I tell you it’s a business enterprise they are running.
Not only did he vote yes in the SFC on Friday when this matter came up, he voted Yes and when he voted that just before he said he declared an interest. And YES.
Faris, why didn’t you recuse yourself? And today I saw him on the TV, looking lean, mean and hungry.
So I hear him in the Parliament and there he is. If you see the fella boy something is going on. I don’t know if it’s all the infighting in the Cabinet with the Ministers. There he is talking on the same bill. Shameless.
You declare you have an interest, you didn’t tell the Parliament what the interest was but we know. It was the building and the rental to be paid is with that personnel building in Alexandria Street somewhere. And today he is talking in support of the bill. You should have recused yourself sir. You should not have participated in that debate. But again that is what this government is about. Friends, family and financiers.
So I’m back on the GATE, all these GATE cuts that have happened. What is the effect of cutting the GATE?
Of course they get money to pay rent. But what is the effect on our children?
How many persons benefited when we were there compared to now?
For fiscal 2016/15 under my watch, 59605 students benefited from GATE.
You go down now to 2017 they set up a task force. They love to set up task forces and committees so that nothing happens. Can I also confirm this 7 day wonder committee. I think the 7 days are done. Saturday has come and gone and we are in Monday.
So last week I told you that was a whole pappyshow and a charade. The whole thing is a pappyshow. Nothing will happen, more than 7 days and counting. Where is this famous report. And they have a history of hiding reports too. Remember the Daryl Smith report, anyone ever saw that?
So they will hide the report and then leak it to their friends in the media. So wait for the leaked report. If it suits them they would leak it. If it doesn’t they will hide it.
So they leak some report from Justice Stanley John about the FUL permits.
Let me get back to the GATE , it’s a very important topic. I want you to understand because it affects every citizen in our country. It affects all our children, It affects all those already in the system. When you cut the money like that from 650 to 320 Billion. That’s a huge cut. What does it mean?
I told you in June 2015 under our watch 59, 603 students were benefiting from GATE. In 2016 they set up a task force . Then in 2017 under the PNM it went to 29, 492 students.
In 2019 that number fell to 21, 720 students. In 202 it fell again to 21000 students.
So from over 50 thousand students under us to now just 21,000 students under the PNM.
This wicked Government keeps cutting the GATE. They have cut out two -thirds of the students.
In the parliament today that’s not the only thing they cut. They only did some fancy work, some people call it cooking the books.
They were two loans the Government had to pay. One had to do with a loan taken by UDECOT. That loan was 230 Million dollars.
That loan came due for payment in September 2021. There was another loan for 160 Million dollars for E Teck.It was something to do with the Magdalena if I’m not mistaken.
So these two loans became due. Now when you have money to pay and you can’t pay, the bank will tell you you’re bankrupt. People will tell you you’re a bus.
They can’t pay these two loans, so they used a fancy word in the Parliament ; refinance.
What does refinance mean? Refinance means you take a next loan to pay off the loan that you were owning and couldn’t pay for.
So 290 Million dollars we are talking about here .
What are the terms of this refinancing? Are we going to pay more interest? When MP Tancoo tried to get clarity today in the Parliament, this wicked government shut him down.
Are you extending the length of this loan. How much more is it going to cost us?
Also MP Tancoo asked who is the person you refinanced this loan with. Because we know there is a cabinet minister who has a family who owns a bank. Some NCB something where their always getting to lend money to the government.
And they shut down MP Tancoo when he asked that question.
So I’m asking again tonight, which institution was used to refinance these loans? Taxpayers must not know what you are doing with their money ?
This government has taken our country into the valley of debt.
When we were in Government Public debt stood at 77.3 Billion. And a big part of that was dent left over from the Manning era.
Under Keith Rowley and the PNM public debt is now 122.9 billion!
And did you know you have to pay charges on public debt. Under US charges on public debt was 4.7 Million.
Under the PNM charges on the public debt is 11.3 Million
Can you imagine if we didn’t have to pay all these charges on debt how many roads could have been done? How many schools could have been built? How many health centres could have been constructed?
Billions of dollars have been lost in the valley of debt.
But you can’t ask questions in Parliament. We will fight them in the Parliament and outside the Parliament. And in the courts of Trinidad and Tobago. We will never give up.
They brought something called a special economic zone last week. And what they are doing with that. They were going to kill economic zones there in the 80s.
They said this is about investment and jobs. That is a lie! Faris stood up in Parliament last week and lied about the Global forum and so on. Their true intention was an attempt to get us off the EU black list. Because despite what Faris says, we are still on the blacklist. And they tried to lie and say it was my government that took us. That is a lie. Thank God we had Saddam in the Parliament who got up and showed documents that showed Faris was lying.
No Action, only talk. That is what this government does. Where is the pepper spray legislation Faris.
What concerns me most is that the board of this SEZ is handpicked by the Minister. And this bill allows you to get tax exemptions -no property tax. No vat no corporate tax. And they will give it to their friends, family and financiers. They never do anything that doesn’t benefit themselves.
Our Parliament is the seat of democracy but this Government is abusing the Parliament. Today A MP cannot ask in Parliament why are you cutting money to the ADB
We will never stop fighting them in the Parliament and in the courts.
And as I say that let me say thank you for these past 12 years. To all the detractors I say the world would be dull if everything was the same colour.
As young Khemraj said tonight, let’s join hands and remove this wicked PNM Government.
Good night and God Bless our nation!