UNC MONDAY NIGHT FORUM AT VISHNU BOYS HINDU COLLEGE, CARONI, JULY 1ST, 2013
Thank you, I am overwhelmed by your love.
On Saturday when I walked in Felicity I felt the UNC warmth and I knew that we continue to have the support of our party in the Chaguanas West by-election.Thank you! Keep the faith and keep your party in government.
Remember my friends, my sisters and brothers, while we are free to choose our actions … we must at all times be careful and look at the bigger picture. Every action has a consequence … and while you are free to choose your action you do not always have control over the consequence of your actions. And that is why this election in about four weeks time is so important. It would determine whether your party continues to maintain the unity that all of us worked so hard to create after 2010 … and it will determine if we will keep Chaguanas West in government.
We must think carefully about these things. It is easy to be carried away by emotion but I am asking you tonight to put the emotion aside and consider the implications. WHY “all you treat him so” The question has been asked as to why I accepted the resignation of the former Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West. In fact people have been commenting, “Why all you treat him so?”Let me tonight indicate that whenever it has become necessary for me as your Prime Minister to act so as to protect the integrity of the government, or to take action so as to ensure that the principles and values which you supported in 2010 remain intact. I have acted fearlessly in the national interest. Whenever I have done so, I have always ensured that I had the most credible information at my disposal and that I acted without fear or favor and devoid of any personal emotions and looking at the bigger picture instead of the narrow confines of the personal. I do not take lightly the integrity of my Government and your desire, should I say determination, for good governance. We came into government on a platform of decent government and integrity and it is my duty to protect those values.
Let us return to the facts of this situation. The former MP was a member of the Cabinet and resigned on his own volition as a result of matters involving him which are still in the public domain. The matters as you know relate to his association with FIFA which to date, he has not provided compelling evidence to refute the allegations answered. You cannot separate those matters from his position as a Minister since it has the potential to do irreparable damage to the government and the image of our country. As I said these matters still remain in the public domain. His decision to resign from his seat and as Chairman of the Party was taken unilaterally. No institutions of the party of which he was Chairman, were consulted. No one asked him to resign. Recognizing the magnitude of what was revealed in the ethics committee report from Panama, he offered his resignation as Minister of National Security and, I accepted, as is my right.
Unilaterally, he returned one of the safest UNC seats that had been given to him on a platter by the UNC and now, he asks you to vote him back. I consider this to be disrespect for the party and for you and, who is to say whether such behavior would not be repeated in the future. He now says that he wants to consult you on Friday as to the direction he should take.I ask the question, why didn’t he not consult you before he did what he did? Where is the loyalty to the party that gave birth to his political career and more so, loyalty to you, Members of the UNC and the Partnership. The former MP is the subject of a police investigation into the establishment of an alleged flying squad at the Ministry of National Security. Serious statements have been made about this matter by those close to it and which statements are also in the public domain. He has admitted that both he and his family are subject of an inquiry by the Government of the US into a range of corporate white collar criminal offences under Federal Jurisdiction in the US. I have said that should he clear his name, he will be re-instated. The party cannot support a candidate under the current circumstances. Further legal challenges can embarrass the country, the government and you, the people of Chaguanas West. While he sat in the Cabinet as a Minister of National Security, he refused to travel on Government Business on several occasions. These Included, matters where the Minister of National Security would have been required to attend whether it be in Washington, Toronto, New York and even Haiti. I am not prepared to burden you with a candidate with all these issues unresolved and in a situation where he had no reason to resign as a Member of Parliament. The matters involving him are clearly not limited to Chaguanas West – they involve the nation. He claims that he is seeking validation. Why didn’t he seek your validation to resign – an action which has put us in this predicament. Here we are tonight, putting energies into a campaign rather than putting more energies into building a country. I stand on the side of public integrity, accountability, credibility and transparency. None of this has been easy for me to tell you tonight but you have asked for answers and I am as I always strive to do, share the reasons behind my decision. The former MP abandoned you and abandoned the Party, I remind you again, that what we are witnessing is similar to 2001 when Ralph, Ramesh and Sudama, sold out to the PNM and put the UNC out of Government. If you are prepared for a repeat of this, so be it. It took nine tough years to get where we are, I do not intend to lose government and I’m sure that the people of Chaguanas West as you begin to know all the facts, will also chose to vote for the Rising Sun and stay in Government. There should be no signal to the PNM that we are anything else except United in Government. The former MP has the opportunity to do right, which is, to support the candidate chosen by the party. To do otherwise, will be disloyalty. I have also heard, people saying that I am biting the hand that fed me, I want you to know that when I fought the internal elections of the party and you unanimously voted me into the position of Political Leadership, I depended on you for moral and other support. Let no one come today and claim that they fed me during that campaign. Our party was in government in 2000 after winning a majority. And three men teamed up with the PNM and caused our government to fall. When we forget our history we risk repeating it. Three men – Ramesh, Ralph and Trevor– thought they were bigger than the party and they undermined your party by teaming up with the PNM. Do you remember that newspaper story ?Do you remember the bold headline DONE DEAL?Don’t ever forget that.The PNM is waiting for an opportunity to divide us again and then watch us fall. So stand on guard. We have to be strong enough to fight back. As your Leader I tell you when we do what is right now we will have the strength to continue working for you … we will triumph in the local election and then we’ll win our second term. We must win that second term in 2015 because that is the only way we can continue the revolution we have started three years ago to develop every corner of this country. RURAL NEGLECT The PNM had subjected our country to the worst form of rural neglect and today they are fighting to try to shut down all our development projects. They don’t want a highway to Point Fortin because it would open up opportunities for tens of thousands.They don’t want a university campus in Debe or a COSTAATT campus in Chaguanas so we can make education more accessible. And now in their latest conspiracy against the development of the country they are looking for issues with the hospitals we are building in Couva and Penal. We are trying to put in the right facilities and infrastructure where they are most needed so that all the people would benefit. So when we build a hospital in Couva it would serve the needs of the people in the neighbouring communities as well as those in Couva, Balmain and Preysal and of course right here in Chaguanas West. The easy access to the Solomon Hochoy Highway makes it a very convenient location but the PNM doesn’t want us to build that hospital and they are coming up with all manner of propaganda to try to stall the construction .But I tell you tonight the Chinese government has given us a commitment to build that hospital and we will build it for you. They cannot stop progress with their propaganda! And we will build your hospital in Penal. The Canadian government is helping us with that project but again the opposition is trying to find any excuse to torpedo it. In typical fashion, they are spreading all manner of misinformation. We need a hospital in Penal because that is one of the more populous regions in the country.The PNM neglect left tens of thousands of people without any access to proper health care. When a child gets sick or someone gets a heart attack the closest hospital is San Fernando or Point Fortin.They die before getting help. That is why we have to build our Penal hospital so we can attend to your health care needs where you live. My sisters and brothers, we are correcting the imbalance in services that was the trademark of the PNM. We will build your hospital in Couva and in Penal and we will do all the things that we need to do for you because national development means providing for ALL the people. When we decide to build a hospital or a police station or community centre we don’t ask whose constituency will benefit; we ask where is the greatest need. And the reason you will see so much happening in rural areas is because the PNM had totally neglected rural Trinidad and Tobago.That is why their leader said that “logistically” rural areas are neglected. Well that is PNM logic. We are a government of the people and the people come first second and last.We are here to serve the people. And who vex, vex.
Infrastructure ,When we took office just three years ago the whole infrastructure of our country was crumbling while the PNM was building white elephants.
And we have a plan for Port of Spain too and Diego Martin and for all parts of TT. You see, we are the government of Trinidad and Tobago and everything we do is people focused and people centred. So we build schools and hospitals instead of skyscrapers; we extend water services and repair roads and drains. We have a plan for Port of Spain too. We are investing more than one billion dollars to develop East Port-of-Spain, Belmont and Gonzales. We are getting expert help and financial assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a development project called the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI). We are following our pattern of governance that involves consultation and cooperation… so we are working with the business community on this project. So when the PNM tells you we are ignoring Port of Spain tell them your government is not ignoring any part of Trinidad and Tobago , and the city that the PNM neglected for 57 years would have its share of national development too.
We are now widening and extending the Diego Martin Highway and continuing works at the Churchill Roosevelt Highway and Uriah Butler Highway Interchange as well as other works along the CRH . We will soon begin works on the Valencia Road By pass. We will soon begin works at the Movie town walkover and the Walkover next to Diwali Nagar site. Just look around you right here in Chaguanas West and you would see a country on the move. You will see a government of the people, working for the people. And that is why you must keep Chaguanas West in the UNC family. One of the first things we did when we entered government was to relocate the Chaguanas Health Facility to Montrose Main Road.The old dilapidated building on the Chaguanas Main Road was falling apart due to decades of PNM neglect … we responded to your needs and today your new Montrose Health Facility has:
An efficient staff Extended general practitioner services on weekends Special clinics, including renal and cardiology units A 24-hour accident and emergency department Extended district nursing services Efficient ambulance services Varied consultancy services for a wide range of health issues That’s a revolutionary change from what existed just three years ago. But I know that we have to do more. So keep Chaguanas West in government and we will continue our work for you. We will keep improving on what we have … and we would have our Couva Hospital just down the road from Montrose. It was a UNC government that built the state of the art health facility in Couva after decades of neglect by the previous government. And very soon, you will get your new Couva hospital … and hospitals in Penal, Arima and Point Fortin. Health care is an important part of our development plans because we must be able to take care of our sick and elderly all over the country. But development takes time. That is why you have to put a UNC MP in Chaguanas West so we can continue the work for the next two years and then win a fresh mandate in 2015 to continue working for you for another five years. We began this journey just over three years ago…We began with a purpose…You, the people of this great republic, gave us a mandate to bring development to all the people of Trinidad and Tobago…All of our MPs were elected for five years. I promised you that I would do everything in my power to hold our People’s Partnership Government together. I gave you that pledge and I make that pledge again to you tonight. I must emphasise to you that we can only succeed with unity. Let us be vigilant and let us all show that we are UNC to the bone and that we will never help the PNM to come back to power because we became divided. We have work to finish. We have projects to deliver. And that, my sisters and brothers, is what your People’s Partnership Government has been doing. We have to address the needs of every citizen and we have to do it without fear or favour. Our record is clear. We don’t ask for party cards when a single mother needs a food card. Hunger doesn’t have a race or a religion. That is why we established your Ministry of the People and social development … to provide help when you need it, where you need it.Nationwide development…While the PNM focused on only putting up multi-million dollar buildings in urban centres your People’s Partnership government is focusing on building community centres in every community in Trinidad and Tobago. We are lighting every community playing field in the country as well…Just as our last Olympic gold medal came from Toco, the next one could come from Tunapuna or Mayaro or right here in Chaguanas West…It’s only been three years but our unprecedented delivery has been greater than what the PNM achieved in 10 years. My sisters and brothers, we have come so far… because of you. Now let us hold hands and walk the rest of the way, building for you and for generations to come. The PNM is afraid because they know that they will never be able to match what we are doing for you, so they have to erect hurdles every step of the way. They are obstructionists who have no regard for the people of this country. Power is all that matters and they will stoop to the lowest levels to achieve power. But YOU have the real power. You used that power in 2010 and removed them and we are asking you to use that power on July 29 to keep them out of Chaguanas West. Don’t give them one vote! Not one vote for them!They will tell you all kinds of nancy stories about what is wrong and who is corrupt. They invented corruption and we are trying to fix it. They see corruption in everything because that is how they conducted the affairs of this country. We are a government that builds … we are a government with a vision. So we focus on education and technology. That’s why tens of thousands of high school children have got new computers from your government. We didn’t ask what party their parents supported or where they live. EVERY CHILD got one. And we will keep doing it because the children represent the future of our country and are our best hope of moving forward and building a country of equals.
LABOUR The PNM wants you to believe that we are anti-worker but the records tell the true story.The PNM kept the minimum wage at $9 an hour from 2003 to when they went out of office in 2010. We brought it to $12.50 an hour.The PNM suppressed the unions and left 75 collective agreements for us to negotiate. We have settled 66 of them and will work with labour unions and settle the rest. This has cost the government $8.5 billion for public sector workers. And now with no plan and no idea of how to run a government they are teaming up with the Joint Trade Union Movement to march to Port of Spain. What they marching for? Look at what we have done for the labour movement. We have in our Cabinet a man who has fought all his life for greater benefits for workers here at home and in the region. Brother Errol McLeod is the man who has been leading the charge to make sure workers have the best deal ever. But the labour movement is ignoring all that Brother McLeod has done and is carrying on with what is clearly a political agenda to try to destabilise your government. And you know what is sad the same way they have forgotten Brother McLeod and all he did for workers and specially the OWTU. They have also forgotten their own history.They have forgotten that a man named Adrian Cola Rienzi fought side by side with Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler for the rights of workers when the colonial government brutalized labour.The duo of Butler and Rienzi fought together and created the OWTU and Rienzi was the first President General of the OWTU… you must also know that Rienzi was the first leader of the All Trinidad Sugar Workers Union … and that is why our previous leader, Mr. Panday, had the foresight to acknowledge the contribution of Rienzi and named the sugar union headquarters the Rienzi complex … that is where we have our headquarters today. In the 1937 labour uprising it was Rienzi who sheltered Bulter from the colonial authorities and kept the struggle going while Butler went into hiding so that he could avoid being arrested. You must know your history of the labour movement if you want to be a labour leader today. Do you think any of the leaders of the OWTU would ever honour or even mention the name Adran Cola Rienzi today? The answer is a resounding no!! Do you know why? They do not even understand their own history. Adrian Cola Rienzi and Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler are the co-founders of the labour movement as we know it today. But those who parade as union leaders today would never give Rienzi his just due and that is why on Labour Day they deliberately omit Rienzi from their greetings and salutations.The Government of Trinidad and Tobago finally honoured the memory of Adrian Cola Rienzi for the 50th anniversary of independence last year by awarding him posthumously the Order of Trinidad and Tobago – our nation’s highest award. What has the Joint Trade Union Movement or the MSJ done to honour Adrian Cola Rienzi? He was the first President General of the OWTU while at the same time serving as the President General of the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trade Union. Rienzi was the person who epitomized the true unity of labour that none of today’s leaders could ever hope to accomplish because they are too divisive in pretending to help workers when they deny their own history. You must ask them why? Why do they deliberately forget Adrian Cola Rienzi on Labour Day? Why? But the same way these trade unions today are distorting reality they are distorting the history of labour and ignoring the champions of the people like brother McLeod and Rienzi.SHAME ON THEM! Shame on them! So now they are PNM is jumping on the labour bandwagon to march.They are running newspaper ads calling on people to join this march. But you see all this is political expediency. David Abdulah said publicly at the MSJ meeting in Preysal that the PNM was the problem and the MSJ said it didn’t want anything to do with the PNM. But now all of a sudden they are embracing one another.The OWTU has declared that it would do everything it can to bring down your government.This march is by a political movement that is bringing together people who pretend to represent workers but in reality it is no more than a political move to try to embarrass your government when we are hosting 14 leaders of the Caribbean and three presidents. My brothers and sisters, when I embraced those labour leaders in 2010, I thought that they were genuine. Not for one moment did I ever think that they were closet PNM supporters looking for a movement to hijack. Well I tell you tonight there is no way that I would let them hijack the People’s Partnership Government. When they could not get their way they decided to leave. But not all of them left. Brother Errol Mc Leod has stayed because he was the only one who was genuine about his desire to advance the labour movement from inside our government – and he is succeeding because we are bringing real change that had not been brought before. My sisters and brothers, the PNM would do anything for power and they only look after their own. Discrimination Our AG told you last week in the Senate about their modus operandi… how they fought against the Equal Opportunities Commission.You know why? It was because they practiced the worst form of discrimination against the people of this country … I cannot tell you all of it … it would take all night. But I can tell you about one that the AG highlighted as a prime example of how they operated.That is why they fabricated a story about the AG going to New York and enquiring about staff there.They were worried that somebody might find out how they were operating; they were frightened that we might find out the truth. Just recently on Sunday 23rd June, the NEWSDAY newspaper published a letter from a former PNM Foreign Minister which the AG read in Parliament. And tonight I want to read that letter for you because it tells you the level of cronyism that existed under the PNM. They were hiring staff at the mission in New York who didn’t even have proper immigration status … and hiring people whose prime qualification was the “blessings of the hierarchy at Balisier House”. On August 3, 2005 the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Knowlson Gift, wrote to the Consul General in New York at the time, Dr. Harold Robertson.This is what he stated in his brief letter:“This is a follow up to previous conversations regarding the employment of Mr. Terrance Gregory Lewis at the Consulate General, New York.“Mr. Lewis’s recommendation for employment at the Consulate General comes with the blessing of the hierarchy at Balisier House.”The blessing of the hierarchy at Balisier House … that is how they made appointments. Not the government… but at Balisier House. In our system of government there is a clear separation between the party and the government … but not for the PNM. For them the party was supreme and the same as the government. My sisters and brothers some of the people hired in New York didn’t even have proper papers but they had the blessings from the right place and that right place was Balisier House. So my brothers and sisters does it surprise you to know which union is supporting this cause at the Industrial Court? I leave that for you to figure it out. It is not too difficult.
So my sisters and brothers, I am asking you to be wary of those who are marching on Friday.They are distorting their own history; they are ignoring the great heroes of the labour movement and they are aligning themselves with politicians who abused workers and took away their rights.That march is tainted; that march is not a labour march for the rights of workers.That march is an attack on your government. That march is designed to overthrow your constitutionally elected government and is designed to threaten all of the foreign leaders who will be here for the annual CARICOM Heads of Government meeting. SHAME on them! So as I close, I want to urge you once again to make sure you keep the PNM out of Chaguanas West.On July 29th you have an opportunity to speak for all the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago…It is your time to make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear…And that voice must say, that we reject the PNM and it’s leader Dr. Rowley…
We Reject the idea that some are more important than others… We reject the idea of rural neglect… We reject the politics of fear… We reject the politics of US AGAINST THEM… We reject the frauds who pose as labour leaders today and harbour the PNM in their bosoms. We reject those trade unions who uphold and protect the politics of Balisier House preferences for hiring workers. We cannot build a nation for the few…I believe that everyone of us has a God given right to equal opportunity… and equal development. That is what this by-election is about…And when this by-election is over, we will take your mandate into the local government election… and we will win that…And then in 2015 we will continue, with your help, we will move on to 5 more years of development for all…That is how important this is…We start here and now…We will move forward with you…Chaguanas West… We have work to do…And that work starts with you…And so I am calling on every member of our party to come walk with us, carry the message and show the PNM that we are united and strong. NOBODY CAN DIVIDE US!We are ONE. We stand side by side for integrity and against injustice We stand for equalityPage 24 of 24 We stand for peace and security We stand for accountability and transparencyWe are building a nation village by village … we are making sure no one gets left behind. Stand tall! Stand firm! Stand up for Trinidad and Tobago! Keep Chaguanas West in government!Let us work together to build a fairer, more prosperous Trinidad and Tobago where all of us can live in harmony. No matter what our backgrounds this is our home. LET US BUILD IT; LET US PROTECT IT.Le us RISE together and say with one voice:“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”On July 29th, you have just one choice….vote for Khadijah Ameen, the UNC candidate.
God bless you! God bless our great party! God bless Trinidad and Tobago.