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NO REGRET: TT Prime Minister defends State of Emergency

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar Monday defended her administration’s decision to impose a state of emergency (SOE) on Trinidad and Tobago, saying it was meeting the objective for which it was intended, including a reduction in crime.


Speaking during the debate on the TT$54.6 billion (US$9.1 billion) budget in Parliament, Persad Bissessar she had “no regret “in imposing the SOE which has been in place here, together with a five-hour curfew since August 21.


“I say unabashedly, I have absolutely no regret that we took the decision based on the advice of the security forces to put a state of emergency in Trinidad and Tobago.


“Never have our people felt safer, Mr. Speaker and never has crime been down to where it is today,” she said, accusing the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) of wanting the population to “forget the multiple promises to deal with crime and failure so to do.


“They want us to forget,” she said, noting that the number of people or murdered during the period of the SOE had declined drastically as compared to the period when the PNM was in office.


Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that despite the SOE, Trinidad and Tobago had been voted the World's Best Tourist Destination for 2012 and has also been declared the Favourite Cultural Destination in 2012.


She said that the announcement was made on October 9 when tourism organisations from 27 European Union member states voted unanimously during the Autumn Meeting of the European Union Council on Tourism and Trade in Bucharest, Romania.


As a result, she dismissed the suggestion that the SOE had affected the tourism sector here.


During her contribution to the budget, the Prime Minister announced that a multi-million dollar scholarship fund by the previous government “was nothing more than a secret slush fund for the PNM’ after the Equal Opportunity Commission disclosed that the rules governing the distribution of funds had been violated on many occasions.


She said that the Commission also found that proper applications had not been made and in many instances, people who benefitted from the fund were not “those in need” as had been stipulated by the measures outlined for a scholarship under the programme.


She said in at least one instance, former prime minister Patrick Manning had sent a note to his then community development minister Joan Yuille Williams “to deal with this quietly” in relation to providing funds to a student.


The Prime Minister said she had no qualms about young people benfitting from any scholarship programme, but that the more than TT$45 million (US$7.5 million) million scholarship was “nothing more than a secret slush fund”.


She said even supporters of the PNM who were not close to the ministers and other high ranking PNM officials did not benefit from the scheme.


She said as a result, and in keeping with the recommendations of the Equal Opportunity Commission that she had instructed the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to conduct a forensic audit of the scholarship fund and warned that those found culpable would face the full brunt of the law.


Persad Bissessar also announced that the state was also moving against former board directors of state institutions, including the former executive chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDECOTT) Calder Hart, on fraud and other related charges.

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