Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 5th 2017 Contents tobagotoday.co.tt July 5 - 2017
PNM blames PDP for early
end to budget debate
The Tobago House of Assembly's
(THA) Leader of Assembly Busi-
ness, Councilor Kwesi Des Vignes
says the Minority Council is
responsible for the premature end
to last week's Fiscal 2018 Budget
Speaking on the issue at last
week's post-Executive Council
media briefing, Des Vignes told
reporters the debate was an oppor-
tunity for the Minority Council to
contribute to "what they see is the
vision for Tobago."
The sixth Plenary Sitting - 2017-
2021 Session, at the Assembly Leg-
islature Building, Jerningham Street,
Scarborough, to lay the THA's draft
estimates before the Assembly,
ended abruptly, after four of the
twelve members present in the
Chamber, made their contributions.
Contributions to the debate were
made by Member for Black Rock/
Whim/ Spring Garden -Kelvin
Charles, the member for Delaford/
Roxborough - Watson Duke, Sec-
retary in the Division of Health
Wellness and Family Development
Dr Agatha Carrington and Minori-
ty Councilor Dr Faith B Yisrael.
Dr Yisrael, who represented the
Watson Duke- led People's Pro-
gressive Patriots (PDP) in the Belle
Garden/Goodwood district during
the THA's elections earlier this year,
lost her seat by one vote.
Stating that as Leader of Assem-
bly Business he did not want it being
said that he forbid members from
making their contribution, he chid-
ed Minority Council members for
what he termed a "dereliction of
"The fact that the Minority on
two occasions ... refused to speak
and basing it on the fact they were
there to rebut ... I think that is a
very shallow interpretation of the
role of the Minority."
Questioned on the procedure to
establish a speaking order during
the debate, the Leader of Assembly
Business said: "... In a debate who-
ever catches the eye of the Presid-
ing Officer shall be able to speak
so although there was no speaking
order everyone was still free to
"As leader of Assembly Business,
one of my responsibilities it to
communicate with the Minority
leader to agree upon a speaking
order," Des Vignes continued,
"however for yesterday's (June 24)
Sitting there was no agreed speak-
Noting that the Standing Orders
governing those proceedings are
clear he said, "Section 145 speaks
to where a Leader of Assembly
Business and the Minority Leader
reach an agreement on speaking
order they shall communicate that
to the Presiding Officer." He said
the delayed debate gave the Minori-
ty Council "ample time to prepare."
The Budget Statement debate,
which was cared to begin on June
22, was delayed by two days -- June
24 - because of the passing of trop-
ical storm Bret.
Des Vignes said he found it
"strange" that when the 2018 fiscal
package was reviewed at the com-
mittee stage "there was not a sin-
gle objection from the Minority
The law requires that the THA's
budget statement goes before a
committee, chaired by the Finance
Secretary and comprised of mem-
bers of both sections of the Cham-
ber, before the estimates are for-
warded to Trinidad.
Infrastructure Secretary: Duke misleading quarry workers
Public Services Association (PSA) pres-
ident Watson Duke is misleading the Stud-
ley Park quarry workers about operations
at the facility.
This from Secretary of Infrastructure,
Quarries and the Environment, Kwesi Des
Vignes during last week's post-Executive
Council media briefing, Calder Hall Admin-
istrative Complex, as he addressed allegations
of privatisation at the quarry.
"We have said it time and time again ... the
quarry will not be privatised ... yet the Minori-
ty Leader ... goes up and incites the workers
making them believe that it is an attempt to
privatise the quarry," Des Vignes said.
Noting that Duke's moves were a "hate
towards productivity" the Secretary said the
"the people who were there marching ...
have the right to take a leave of absence
from their jobs but there was a loss of pro-
ductivity on the day."
The National Union of Government and
Federated Workers (NUGFW) quarry work-
ers took to James Park, Scarborough, last
Thursday, to highlight issues at their work-
place. Duke, who led the protest, invited
the workers to enter the Assembly Legisla-
ture Building to witness the Budget State-
ment's Fiscal 2018 debate.
"Noting that PSA's president and Minori-
ty Leader, Watson Duke, knew the truth
about the quarry's operations, he said the
union's president was "deliberately filling
the worker's heads with nonsens ... and
giving them a basket to tote water."
The Secretary said he had to reiterate that
the quarry workers will not be retrenched
but will be "redeployed"
, "given first prior-
ity to fill newly advertised positions" and
possibly "given a redeployment incentive."
He said the THA's initiatives gave the work-
ers "many ... bites of the cherry."
On the issue of existing conditions at the
quarry, Des Vignes said all is not well. "Daily
I get calls about "sabotage"
, "workers not
working efficiently" and "people conspiring
to remove material illegally," he said.
He also said operations at the quarry was
"perpetually running at a loss" as a load of
aggregate was sold at $600 but costs $900
to produce. "Beyond that when Tobagonians
try to purchase that same aggregate it costs
them two and three times that price."
He noted that the THA appointed new
management structure- Studley Park Enter-
prise Limited- will run the day to day oper-
ations as the THA tries to commercialise
the facility and boost productivity.
The Infrastructure Secretary reminded
reporters that the THA spent over $100m
in 2012 to improve quarry operations but
"it did not work."
He also said the THA planned to privatise
the quarry in 2001 but shelved those plans.
KWESI DES VIGNES
Watson Duke, centre in black suit, leads Studley Park workers in protest action opposite the Assembly Legislature Building, Jerningham Street, Scarborough, last Thursday.
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