Clint chan tack
The state of emergency (SoE) will end at midnight on Wednesday.
Hours earlier, the House of Representatives passed a motion to end the SoE from that point on with 20 government MPs voting for the motion and 14 opposition MPs abstaining.
Notable absent from the meeting were Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal. Al-Rawi, who is currently out of TT, was granted leave from the Speaker of the House, Bridgid Annisette-George, from November 14 to 25. Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo was granted recess from Wednesday’s sitting
Before the motion was passed, the PM categorically rejected repeated claims by opposition UNC that the SoE was being removed due to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections on December 6.
The SoE was first imposed on May 15. The House met on May 24 to extend it to August 29 and then met on August 25 to extend it to November 29.
Under Article 10 (1) of the Constitution, the SoE can be extended, before it expires, by a simple majority vote of the House for three months. Section 10 (2) states that the SoE may be extended from time to time, but not more than three months at a time.
Any further extension requires a three-fifths majority votes in the House and Senate for approval. This means the support of the opposition for the first and for the second, the support of the opposition and independent senators.
The process for terminating SoE is much simpler. Article 10 (3) states that “the proclamation (of the SoE) may be revoked at any time by a simple majority vote of the House of Representatives”.
Rowley said previous contributions to the debate by UNC MPs David Lee, Saddam Hosein, Rushton Paray and Anita Haynes had one thing in common. “They’re confused and so all of the presentations we’ve heard so far are actually presentations from people who are in fact confused.”
Rowley said he didn’t want to be mean to the opposition. “I guess they had to come here to say something.” He reminded MPs that the end of the SoE meant the end of the daily 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, designed to limit the movement of people in public during this time.
But the UNC wants people to believe they are campaigning for the election between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. “Absolute refinement. Everyone knows … those who canvass for any political party … especially the PNM … as soon as the sun goes down … you end your canvassing … nobody not solicit in the night. “
This is not something the UNC would know. “You (UNC) are not engaging in canvassing. You are appealing to race and religion and your party is sticking to that.” Annisette-George rejected claims by Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh that Rowley blamed UNC for improper motive.
“An election is taking place in Tobago. You (UNC) are not participating. You are hiding behind the PDP. Rowley said the UNC couldn’t find a single candidate to contest a THA election but claimed to know about canvassing in Tobago. “You come to disturb people’s psyche with nonsense. There is no canvassing in Tobago, which takes place at night.”
Rowley claimed UNC asked a friend in the media to write this newspaper op-ed. He hoped there would be an elevation of thought in TT. Rowley reminded Hosein of an earlier debate in the House when he claimed people lived in the main ridge of Tobago. Recalling what West Tobago MP Shamfa Cudjoe then told him “nobody lives there”, Rowley said: “Nobody canvassing there overnight”. He believed that Hosein would have learned from his previous experience to stay away from elections in Tobago.
“Now I have to tell him the night in Tobago… nobody canvass there.” Tobagonians are also subject to public health regulations, whether or not there is an SoE. Regulations currently only allow a maximum of ten people to assemble in public.
Rowley called UNC MPs’ defense of public health regulations hypocritical. “Talking about the public health ordinance in such a loving and caring way… you wouldn’t believe it’s the same public health ordinance that they fought tooth and nail, at the start of the pandemic… in and out of house court … continuing left, right and center, to say that we shouldn’t be using the same public health order to address the covid problem. “
He recalled that the UNC had openly demanded an SoE, even before the government implemented it on May 15. “Exactly what they asked for..they got. You give it to them. They don’t want it.” Rowley reiterated that the government has done and continues to do all it can to protect the public during the pandemic. He lamented that the UNC has never made a real effort to form a united front with the government to fight the pandemic.
In an adjournment motion, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh rejected a claim by Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran that the recent increase in covid19 cases was due to people infected in covid19 safe areas. .
“From an epidemiological standpoint, the safe areas have been successful. Deyalsingh has said to date that there have been no reports of a cluster or clusters of covid19 infections in any safe area. “This hogwash that the safe zones are not secure to this day is just to verify or try to verify the fallacy of its political leader (Persad-Bissessar) that the safe zones were going to fail.”
Deyalsingh criticized Seecheran for not saying that the first case of the delta variant in the TT was on August 11 (and had been imported. He reminded MPs that the first case of local delta spread was on September 20 and that the security zones were implemented on October 11.
On Seecharan’s call for antigen testing, Deyalsingh said 19,800 of those tests had taken place to date, free of charge. “Leadership in difficult times is difficult for some people. There is a saying … either lead … follow … or step aside.”