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Gopee-Scoon: UNC calling for Tobago boycott

...MP gets a warning from Speaker

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

OPPOSITION Member of Parliament for Point Fortin, Paula Gopee-Scoon, has accused the "United National Congress (UNC) administration" of embarking on a campaign that calls for Trinidadians to boycott Tobago.

The UNC is the majority party in the People's Partnership coalition Government.

Gopee-Scoon however did not supply any data to support her claim.

She made the statement on Monday night during her contribution to the Finance Bill 2013 at the House of Representatives, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre in Port of Spain.

"This administration is really undermining tourism and I am concerned about that," Gopee-Scoon said.

"You may not be aware of it, I want to explain, you may not be aware of it Mr Speaker. I suspect that you too will be shocked, Mr Speaker, because this UNC administration has begun a campaign calling on citizens to boycott Tobago," Gopee-Scoon said.

"I cannot believe it Mr Speaker and I know you will be shocked as well but we cannot..," Gopee-Scoon started to say before she was interrupted by Sport Minister Anil Roberts' shout of "nonsense".

Roberts was acting as Leader of Government Business in the absence of Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal.

"This is what we are hearing of, this is what we are reading and I am going to speak to the evidence Mr Speaker because once we are talking about the economy. The Minister of Finance spoke about that in the bill, we have to be concerned about developing those areas. But I am saying how is that possible when the administration, members of the administration, are also calling on the citizens of Trinidad to boycott Tobago," she said.

Gopee-Scoon said she was "concerned" by the development.

"Everyone uses the social media quite a bit in Trinidad and Tobago...if you ask me, it has become one of the most efficient and used means of communication in Trinidad and Tobago, and there is a particular blog Mr Speaker I think it is called, in fact it is called the Team UNC/COP blog...," Gopee-Scoon said.

Roberts interrupted again.

"Mr Speaker (Standing Order) 36 (5). I was allowing it to go on, I was waiting to hear the evidence about this Government boycotting Tobago and if her evidence is some blog or some unknown thing please can I put a stop to this now," Roberts said.

"Honourable Member, the member is saying that what you are saying is totally unfounded and we have to take the word of the member on behalf of the Government on this matter and I would have to ask you to refrain from that. You are implying and imputing improper motives to every member on the Government side," House Speaker Wade Mark said.

Mark advised Gopee-Scoon to bring a "substantive motion" on the issue.

"Of course I abide by your instruction Mr Speaker but it is just that I am appalled that this is coming from senior members in the Government," Gopee-Scoon said.

Mark intervened again.

Gopee-Scoon tried to return to the issue but was again shot down by Roberts and Mark.

Gopee-Scoon said she intends to bring a motion on the issue.

She then attempted to quote from a document but Mark warned her that she could not use the quote to impute improper motives on any member of the House.

"I am really concerned about this question of free speech in the Parliament," Gopee-Scoon said.

"Member take your seat, do not query or question me otherwise you would not speak for the rest of the evening. Do not query me as Speaker. If you have a problem file a motion of no confidence in the Speaker but do not query what I am ruling. When I rule you follow and desist, just continue but desist from the path you are treading," Mark said.

"I will in fact comply but of course point made," she said.

During his contribution to the debate, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Rudy Indarsingh said the Government was "fully committed toward the union between Trinidad and Tobago".

Later in the sitting, Mark quoted section 55:1 of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution which relates to free speech in the Parliament "for those especially who feel that freedom of speech is absolute".

"Members, may I remind you sometime we get a bit overly emotional about matters but in the House, I want to appeal to all members on both sides, please, when you are making your contributions do it in a dignified manner that will lift the standard in this House, and that we conduct our affairs with a certain degree of decorum," Mark said.

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