Moonilal: No signatures on petition
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday quoted from a letter from Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stating that the petition he received from Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley bore no signatures.
The letter, dated October 4, stating that the petition bore the signature of no persons, Moonilal said. "Nooooooo!" Government MPs chorused. "Dr Rowley indicated that he had collected thousands of signatures in response to the petition and produced to me a bundle with lists of signatures which were to accompany the petition, which I did not review. I suggested rather that when he had properly collated all the signatures, it might be appropriate to deliver same and Dr Rowley undertook to do so," Moonilal said.
Noting that former Senate President Michael Williams was one of the signatories, Moonilal said he imagined Williams' signature was "in a bag somewhere in Balisier House". This provoked laughter.
"When Mr Williams signed it was intended to go to His Excellency, but that bag is languishing somewhere," Moonilal stated. "Someone told me it had raffle sheets and so on. They put signatures and throw it inside there so a man sign a 24 cents chance...thinking he winning a sponge cake and a blender and his signature reach by His Excellency," Moonilal said.
This caused Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald to rise in protest saying that Moonilal was imputing improper motives.
Moonilal said he was merely using Rowley's boast that the PNM had collected 25,000 signatures during its campaign against Section 34 of the Administration of Justice Act, to "speak to the issue of trust" which Rowley himself had raised in his Budget reply. Continuing to taunt the Opposition, Moonilal said the only petition that he knows that has one signature is a divorce petition. "They must be honest with the population and tell us, if and when, they do have a petition.
At the end of Moonilal's contribution House Speaker Wade Mark referred to Standing Order 36 which says that President's name shall not be used in any debate to influence the House.
Moonilal said Rowley's third budget reply was the first in which he articulated an alternative plan. However, Moonilal noted that the "hallmark" of the PNM plan "remarkably" was the "return to the racket (rapid) rail". He said $485 million of taxpayers money went into a pre-feasibility study "but the leader of the Opposition assures the nation that if in a nightmare the PNM is allowed to return to office, they coming with the racket rail".
He said Rowley's responses to Government's measures kept changing all the time. His response to the removal of VAT was firstly that it was deception and now was saying it would led to an increase in consumption of unhealthy foods. But Moonilal said the zero-rated list included healthy foods such as yogurt and artificial sweeteners. He said the PNM would return VAT if it came back to office.
On Rowley's references to skullduggery and "Bonnie and Clyde", Moonilal said: " This was a gentlemen who was part of an administration which gave out over $50 million in scholarship "where they just use to sit down somewhere and write down name and give way scholarship and you couldn't find student or university".