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Govt spends $48m to clean drains

...‘previous cost: $300,000’

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

Port of Spain

DURING The Chaguanas West by-election, the People’s Partnership Government spent $48 million to clean some drains in the area that previously cost only $300,000 to clean, Opposition Senator Avinash Singh has said. Speaking at the Upper House on Tuesday night, Singh said this is the sort of beha­viour the electorate can expect from the current Government during the 15-day period before a run-off election is held.

Singh made the statement during his contribution to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 debate in the Senate at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. One of the key amendments to the bill is the proposal for a run-off election once a candidate does not attain more than 50 per cent of the votes. Singh likened this situation to the by-election he unsuccessfully contested in Chaguanas West in July last year.

“When a run-off election is triggered, it is election atmosphere all over again, intense campaigning, music trucks, banners, fliers, party symbols being permanently affixed to the nation’s roads. “In fact, I saw this truck with a machine. They came up with a machine that stamped UNC on the ground permanently,” Singh said.
Singh said the Government spent millions of tax dollars in a failed attempt to win the Chaguanas West by-election. “Forty-eight million dollars allocated to clean some drains that once cost the Agricultural Society some $300,000,” Singh said.

“Let me put that into some context. The Felicity Foodcrop Project has some irrigation channels. It was cleaned a few years ago for $300-something thousand. During the election of Chaguanas West, the Government spent $48 million to clean the same drain,” he said.
Singh said he lives in the area and is yet to see some of the contractors listed doing work there. “Can you imagine this kind of behaviour by an incumbent Government controlling State resources to retain a constituency, far less a Government?” Singh said.

Singh said as a candidate for a by-election he was publicly humiliated by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other members of the Cabinet. “When a prime minister could reach to that level and speak like that against a civi­lian with the liberty of participating in our democratic process, as a nation we have failed. “We have failed in every single line of our national anthem,” he said.

Singh said he would not put “God out of his thoughts” and vote for the bill. “I unequivocally reject this bill and therefore I will not support this sin to contribute to political instability and possibly civil unrest,” Singh said.
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