Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 17th 2015 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Saturday, October 17, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Finance Minister Colm Imbert says there are
adequate resources in the Gate fund to ensure
that all demands from tertiary students are met.
Imbert gave the assurance during yesterday s
Standing Committee meeting on the 2016 national
budget in the House of Representatives.
The meeting, being chaired by House Speaker
Bridgid Annisette-George, resumes today at 10
am and is scheduled to conclude at 4 pm.
In response to questions from Caroni East MP
Dr Tim Gopeesingh, Imbert said Gate was funded
by a special fund, adding that $650 million is
being transferred into the fund to cater to students
"When you add this $650 million that is there,
you would have the required amount to pay for
the expenditure of the required $700 million (plus)
in 2016. So we are comfortable at this point in
time with the balance that already exists in the
Gate fund that this transfer of $650 million is
adequate to meet all the demands of this fund
in 2016, including the payment for the medical
students who were denied funding by you (the
People s Partnership)," Imbert told the meeting.
Gopeesingh also asked Imbert about a proposal
by the new Government to establish a means test
to qualify for Gate funding.
Imbert said that was a matter the nation must
"If you take a combination of (Gate) expansion
and a means test it may be revenue neutral. You
add and you subtract and you might get the same
figure," Imbert said.
He said the financing of those who could pay
for tertiary education should also be discussed.
"We need to talk about it as a country...that
whether the very rich, wealthy, should also be
entitled to free (tertiary) education. We need to
talk about it. We need to have a dialogue on this,"
But Gopeesingh said education should be equi-
table and accessible.
Imbert also said the modest decrease of $6
million in the Food Card programme would not
negatively affect the initiative, which was started
by the former People s Partnership regime. He
said the new Government "will be cutting out
corruption, waste and mismanagement" from the
programme, which provided assistance to the
Based on the increased allocation to another
PP initiative---the Children s Life Fund---
Gopeesingh asked Imbert if the PNM Government
would be contributing to the fund. Imbert said
he would respond to that question in writing
A photo on page A23 of yesterday's paper,
headlined Dangerous Step, highlighted a photo
of worker on top a cargo vehicle outside the
Atlantic plant in Point Fortin. Atlantic officials
have assured us that while the vehicle was
outside the plant, it was neither coming from
inside the compound nor was it one of their
Opposition MP Barry Padarath has called
on People s National Movement (PNM)
Ministers Darryl Smith and Colm Imbert
to apologise to the Parliament and people
of T&T for comments about him, which
he heard during a parliamentary debate
and allegedly in the parliament s tea room,
respectively, last Saturday.
Padarath has also challenged both to join
him in an anti-bullying initiative in Iere
Village next Wednesday.
"There will be no free passes on this matter
for both ministers. I ve copied the honourable
Prime Minister indicating their failure to
participate in the event should warrant their
resignation, both as MPs and as government
ministers, seeing they ve failed to uphold
the impartiality and sanctity of their offices,"
Padarath said in a press release.
The move was Padarath s response to
Smith s statement that he d apologised to
Padarath following his words "Princes(s),
Princes(s)" during last Saturday s budget
debate in Parliament.
There had also been reports that Imbert
claimed his Facebook site---which allegedly
contained comments as well---was hacked.
He said it was deactivated to install security.
The entire situation has caused a firestorm
of anti-bullying protest, particularly on social
media and by various groups, including les-
bian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT)
In Parliament on Thursday, Smith didn t
reply to a note sent to him on the issue by
the T&T Guardian. But when the T&T
Guardian approached him at the tea break
that day, he said he d apologised to Padarath
and shook hands with him and "...we moved
Smith had said the apology took place
shortly after the incident and he d also apol-
ogised the day when it happened. He said
he "and Barry were okay..." and also apol-
ogised if he d offended anyone else.
Yesterday, when T&T Guardian asked
Padarath if he d accepted Smith s apology,
Padarath claimed Smith didn t "immediately
apologise." Padarath said Smith approached
him on Thursday, introduced himself and
said if Padarath was offended, then, "...I m
Padarath, in his letter, told Smith his remark
in the Parliament was "insulting, degrading
and demeaning to him and the Parliament.
In light of your offensive statements, I request
you apologise to the Parliament of T&T and
the people of our nation.
"As minister responsible for Sport/Youth
Affairs you ve demonstrated your inability
to uphold the oath of office you have taken.
The youth of the nation come from diverse
backgrounds and circumstances and therefore
as a minister, you represent each and every
one of them."
Padarath said participation in the anti-
bullying event at the Iere Village Government
Primary School would demonstrate Smith s
commitment to equality for all.
"Your refusal to commit, attend or par-
ticipate in this cause and beyond will con-
stitute an indictment on your honesty with
respect to representing all of the people and
should warrant your resignation as a gov-
ernment minister and MP," Padarath said.
He told Smith he d copied the letter to
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
"I believe he (Rowley) too owes our nation
a social responsibility to ensure you fulfil
your mandate as minister of Government
and MP," Padarath said.
Padarath said the ministers reaction to
the invitation would show the national com-
munity their commitment to tackling issues
such as bullying.
He added, "This is a positive approach
both ministers can attend if they re truly
interested in upholding the oath of office
they took to do right by all manner of people
without fear, favour, affection or ill will. "
Padarath presses Imbert, Smith for apology
No free passes
on this matter
GETTING IT RIGHT
Padarath told Finance Minister Colm
Imbert in his letter that he'd noted
alleged "degrading, insulting comments"
made about him, in "a vile, malicious
manner," on October 10 and he'd noted
Imbert's denial. Padarath alleged,
however, that he heard Imbert make the
same utterances in the parliament tea
room on the same date.
"Several Parliamentarians can
corroborate these exact utterances were
made by you, as they too have reportedly
heard the same," Padarath alleged.
"You will recall that I then asked you in
the (parliament) chamber why you were
maligning my character on social media,
to which you responded with a smile."
Padarath said Imbert's conduct was
unbecoming of a representative of the
people and Imbert should apologise to
the Parliament and people. He said
Imbert's failure to attend the anti-
bullying event would be an indictment on
his ability to represent all the people and
warrant his resignation as MP and
He said the Prime Minister had a social
responsibility to ensure Imbert
maintained the highest standards of the
office he holds.
"It is my hope the honourable Prime
Minister does not and will not condone
this type of behaviour," he said.
Imbert, between Finance Committee
proceedings yesterday, said the matter
was closed and it had nothing to do with
him. He said he made no remarks in or
outside of Parliament and wasn't aware
of a letter from Padarath and the tea
"I know nothing of this. And this
matter is closed," Imbert told the T&T
Smith didn't answer calls yesterday.
FINANCE MINISTER: MATTER CLOSED
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