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PM dismisses protest action

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar dismissed protest action staged outside the Parliament yesterday, saying instead she was “very pleased” by the number of pro-Government supporters who showed up.

Hundreds of people converged yesterday outside Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, where the country’s Parliament is housed.

Among those who were outside the Parliament yesterday were United National Congress (UNC) members showing their support for their party and Persad-Bissessar as their leader; members of the People’s National Movement (PNM) supporting their political leader, Dr Keith Rowley; members of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) calling for the removal of the Government; and a faction of UNC supporters showing their displeasure over Tuesday’s dismissal of Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh as minister of the people and social development.

“I went there before I came here. I thought there were a lot of people in support of the Government and I was very pleased to see it,” Persad-Bissessar said yesterday. “I think there were not as many (anti-Government proponents) as some might have expected. People are free to do as they feel,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar made the statement yesterday after a 30-minute-long meeting with senior staff in the conference room of the Ministry of the People and Social Development at Aber­cromby Street, Port of Spain.

It was her first visit since taking over the portfolio on Wednesday.

She expressed surprise to see one of the officials present whom she felt would have been participating in the protest action supporting Ramadharsingh.

As officials introduced themselves, Anthony Phagoo stated he was manager of the URP Social Department at the ministry.

Persad-Bissessar told Phagoo she thought he would have been outside the Parliament, as she was “advised” he would be.

The protest was planned by adviser to the minister of the People and Social Development Barrington “Skippy” Thomas.

Thomas was not present at the meeting and stayed in his office for the entire time.

Thomas said the protesters were only expressing their democratic rights. “The people are there to express there demo­cracy. She (Persad-Bissessar) is the one who said the voice of the people is the voice of God,” he said.

Persad-Bissessar yesterday praised Ramad­harsingh for his work at the ministry and vowed to continue to the good work.

“Thank you very much for the warm welcome received today. As I said earlier, you have done great work over the years since this ministry was created. I pointed out to you and reminded myself that in our manifesto, the People’s Partnership manifesto, that we had pledged that we would establish a Ministry of the People and that ministry would be under the Office of the Prime Minis­ter. “That was four years ago, more than four years ago. It is now under the Office of the Prime Minister and I look forward to working with you,” she said.

“I have been very impressed with the work of this ministry, with the work of the former minister who was leading you and guiding you, and I want to thank our former minister Glenn Ramadharsingh for the excellent work he did during his tenure here in this ministry, and I pledge that I will do my best to carry on the good work, your great work, and I look forward to working with all of you,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Simeon Yearwood, acting permanent secretary of the Ministry of the People and Social Development, pledged the ministry’s support to Persad-Bissessar.

“We have just had the pleasure of our Honourable Prime Minister coming to her ministry. We welcome her, and we assure all our dedication and commitment to furthering the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

“This is a very important ministry where service command is critical,” Yearwood said.

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