Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 22nd 2015 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Saturday, August 22, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Any changes to the existing law on abortion,
gay rights and marijuana will have to be deter-
mined by the people of the country after exten-
sive consultations, Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar said yesterday.
She made the comment during the question
and answer session at yesterday s luncheon organ-
ised by the Powerful Ladies of T&T (Plott) at the
T&T Chamber of Commerce in Westmoorings.
Dealing first with abortion, Persad-Bissessar
said that issue was very controversial, adding that
it was not dependent on her views, "but I think
it is a matter for the people of T&T and what
is on the statute books, I will comply with the
law as it is in T&T. Should the population say
they want it otherwise, we will move in that
She then commented on the issue of gay rights,
saying a similar position obtained.
"Our position is the same. That is not a decision
that could be made by us in the Cabinet. It is a
matter that requires tremendous consultation,
stakeholder consultations, to arrive at consen-
She insisted, however, "It is not my decision
Social activist Hazel Brown, who was in the
audience, called on Persad-Bissessar to "imme-
diately, before election, take the bold step of
adopting the 2012 version of the Gender Policy
which was presented by (former Gender Minister)
Brown said that draft policy "does not promote
gay rights, all it says is that people will not be
discriminated against, it does not promote abor-
The PM then said it would be taken before
Cabinet on Thursday for consideration, adding
she could not promise anything more on the
Leader of the Trinidad Humanity campaign,
Marcus Ramkissoon, asked the PM what was her
position on decriminalising marijuana. He noted
that it had already been decriminalised in Jamaica.
In response, Persad-Bissessar said "marijuana,
ganja, cannabis, plant-like substance, whatever
you call it" was decriminalised in Jamaica because
it was a major revenue earner. That comment
Persad-Bissessar said T&T was working with
Caricom on the issue but she did not "want T&T
to move forward with that until we have all the
reports, then we can formulate our position and
get your views on it."
She noted, however, that many countries have
decriminalised marijuana for medicinal purpos-
"So it isn t something that is totally impossible,
but I will prefer to see the Caricom recommen-
dation before we put it before the people of T&T
for their approval, should that become necessary,"
the PM said.
Following the luncheon, Persad-Bissessar and
other Cabinet ministers met with selected busi-
nessmen at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann s to
discuss common interests as the September 7
general elections approaches.
Among those present was the president of the
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association
Gregory Aboud. (RL)
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
yesterday accused Clico Policyholders
Group chairman Peter Permell of attempt-
ing to blackmail her Government on the
issue of outstanding payments to former
She made the statement during a lunch-
eon roundtable organised by the Powerful
Ladies of T&T (Plott) at the T&T Chamber
of Commerce, Westmoorings, yesterday,
after Permell reiterated the group s plan to
withhold their support for the People s Part-
nership and asked what her Government s
plan was regarding the matter.
A statement issued previously by Permell,
following a policyholders meeting on August
16, had noted that they had moved a res-
olution calling on the Government to pay
the remaining balance due on their con-
tractual entitlements from the Clico Statu-
tory Fund. Barring this, the group said it
would be forced to withhold its support for
the PP in the September 7 general elections.
Permell was the second speaker to pose
a question when the forum was opened up
for questions from the crowd yesterday.
When he took to the microphone he remind-
ed Persad-Bissessar of the resolution passed
and of policyholders intention to withhold
their support "until such time that our pay-
ments are made with respect to Clico."
He noted too that the group had given
the Government until yesterday to respond
to that ultimatum.
In response, by which time Permell had
already returned to his seat, Persad-Bissessar
said she shared his concern for the policy-
holders, but noted that "your comment that
you would withhold your support may be
seen as blackmail by some."
There was applause from the audience.
Persad-Bissessar then said that Govern-
ment "will act according to the law of the
country and in fairness of justice."
She then asked Finance and the Economy
Minister Larry Howai, who was also present,
to respond in more detail on the issue of
outstanding payment to the policyholders.
Howai told Permell his position to seek
the outstanding money for the policyholders
was a reasonable one. He added, however,
that Permell had indicated that "any pay-
ments which would be made should not
come from the Exchequer and that it should
come out of the statutory fund of Clico."
Howai said he personally shared that posi-
tion and the sub-committee of the Cabi-
net---the Financial and General Purposes
Committee---was also in agreement with
the position too.
But the minister noted that certain addi-
tional information with respect to the Statu-
tory Fund was being sought. He said he was
not aware of yesterday s ultimatum, adding
that he expected the matter to be advanced
"Once we are clear on what our position
is with respect to the ability of the funds
to meet the required payments that you
have asked for, then certainly we will put
the arrangements in place."
In a release issued later yesterday, however,
Permell said the PM s comment was unfor-
"I believe that use of the word "blackmail"
by the Prime Minister, in response to the
resolution of the "assenting" policyholders
passed last Sunday to withhold their support
for the PP Government until such time that
they are paid their own hard-earned money,
is most unfortunate and regrettable.
"And it is certainly not the way you win
back their support. In fact, it is somewhat
reminiscent of the "take it or leave it" remark
in relation to the zero-interest government
bonds that was made some years ago.
"However, personally, I have already for-
given the Prime Minister, since I am per-
suaded that she may have been caught off-
guard by the candor and robustness of my
question and therefore probably misspoke
or was trying to be facetious.
"The bottom-line is that the Clico
assenting policyholders are neither fazed
nor daunted by the remark, since you simply
can t blackmail someone to get back some-
thing that rightfully belongs to you."
may be blackmail
PM throws words to Clico policyholders
poses a question
to Prime Minister
Ladies of T&T's
The Future of
T&T, at the
Clico collapsed in 2009 and was the
beneficiary of a bailout, that has been
estimated at $25 billion, initiated by the
former PNM government.
In March this year, the Central Bank
announced that it was starting to repay
Clico's creditors and made a cash
payment of $4 billion to the Government.
That was part of $7 billion allocated to
be paid to the Government in the first
distribution of Clico fund. The balance of
the $7 billion is supposed to come from
the transfer of Clico shares in Angostura,
CL World Brands and Home Construction
But although the Government recently
announced that Clico had become
solvent again and had managed to repay
most of its debt to the state, the
policyholders, who number some 15,000-
plus, are still awaiting full payment.
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