SOMBRE MOOD: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during yesterday's Parliament sitting at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. Looking on at left is National Security Minister Jack Warner. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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Imbert knocks Govt's use of helicopters

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Government was yesterday accused of using National Security helicopters for campaigning in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her frontline MPs tried to put on a brave face but they looked somewhat crestfallen as the PNM ramajayed in the House of Representatives in the face of the 12-0 landslide in by the People's National Movement (PNM) in the THA election.

"Mr Speaker, it was wetting, after wetting, after wetting," an upbeat and highly energised Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert declared, flicking his hand in the motion synonymous with giving licks. Laughter flowed like water from the PNM bench during his contribution.

The PNM women were decked off in red while the men wore red shirts, or red ties.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was not present in the House.

But Imbert could not resist references to the THA election as he lambasted Government for using the State-owned military helicopters as its personal taxi for politicking and transporting soca artistes to its party rallies.

Noting that Government had failed to answer questions from the Opposition about the use of the helicopters, Imbert said: "Taking Machel Montano to Tobago? We know, yuh know! We are simply seeking confirmation of what the whole country knows... Mr Speaker I was in Tobago on Saturday and I saw a National Security helicopter on the tarmac all day just waiting to ferry persons from the other side back and forth to campaign in the Tobago election."

Imbert said the national security equipment was not a taxi. He noted that while there was an increase in violent crime, "these helicopters were not being used as part of a matrix of defence".

"These helicopters instead of being used as part of the overall marine defence strategy are being used as taxis to carry soca stars, calypsonians to and from political rallies in various parts of Trinidad and Tobago. I call on the Government to stop it, stop using the helicopters to take people to political rallies!

"The people are tired to this. And you saw it! That election was a complete rejection of the policies of this Government," he said to deskthumping and to a chorus of "yes" from his PNM colleagues.

As he spoke on the Package C of Uriah Butler/Solomon Hochoy Highway and Government members attempted to rebutt some of his points, Imbert roared: "You can't do anything right. You can't get anything right! You went and spent three weeks in Tobago, up and down, campaigning, painting the road yellow. As yuh bend a corner you seeing yellow trunk (labelled) TOP. When yuh watch so, yuh seeing (TOP) banner, when yuh watch so yuh seeing (TOP) flag, and yuh get zero. Zero," he said, making a circle with his thumb and index finger. "Yuh have yuh chairman (Jack Warner) saying yuh would win ten..."(saying"If we can't win this election, then we can' win none). Well that is a true statement," Imbert said. "Zero!" he said, rubbing it in. Deskthumping and peals of laughter followed.

Imbert was contributing to the debate on a motion to approve the report of the Finance Committee in the House of Representatives.

Imbert began his contribution by saying that he did not want to speak in any detail because he was sure that "Honourable members would wish to be elsewhere. Honourable Members opposite might wish to be engaging in some form of group therapy," he said to sustained deskthumping and laughter from the PNM benches. "Honourable members from this side would prefer to be elsewhere, celebrating," he added, provoking another round of tablethumping.

Imbert said some Government members were so "bazodee" with the licking they got, that they had resorted to wearing red, the PNM colour. He said Anil Roberts was wearing an almost red tie, as was Errol McLeod. "My spies in Tobago told me that the Prime Minister, when she left Coco Reef this morning, was resplendent in red," he said, getting more deskthumping support. "Which she has since changed," he added.

The Prime Minister said that was "totally false". Imbert shot back with sarcasm: "Yeah, right. And allyuh win ten seats too."

Imbert said there was an increase in the appropriation for a number of ministries totalling $2 billion and a decrease totalling $2 billion, with some increases being substantial but the Finance Minister Larry Howai had given no explanation. "It is an insult to this Parliament to come and ask us to agree to changes in expenditure amounting to $2 billion and not provide a single detail, far less a single explanation," he said. What kind of Government came to Parliament every year asking for an appropriation of $55 billion and when it closed the accounts, it couldn't spend the money, he said, adding: "That is not efficiency, that is incompetence." —See Page 7

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