Al-Rawi: PM did not attend because of boycott /

The boy­cott by sev­en UNC-held cor­po­ra­tions of yes­ter­day’s meet­ing with the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­istry and the Prime Min­is­ter, left half of Trinidad out of talks on ad­dress­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery and op­er­a­tional­is­ing Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment re­form soon.

The boy­cott was called by Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar on Mon­day.

At a me­dia brief­ing on Tues­day, Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Faris Al-Rawi said the min­istry’s meet­ing was planned with may­ors, coun­cil­lors, chair­men and al­der­men of all 14 cor­po­ra­tions on the op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment law and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Al-Rawi said Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley had been pre­pared to speak and an­swer queries and act­ing Fi­nance Min­is­ter Allyson West and the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al at­tend­ed.

Arrange­ments to speak were made vir­tu­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly for Row­ley, who re­cent­ly test­ed again pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

But, he said since the UNC mem­bers–rep­re­sent­ing sev­en cor­po­ra­tions and half of Trinidad– boy­cotted and the ques­tion-and-an­swe seg­ment was de­nied, Row­ley didn’t at­tend.

Row­ley was in­stead rep­re­sent­ed by Hous­ing Min­is­ter Camille Robin­son-Reg­is.

All oth­er in­vi­tees at­tend­ed and one UNC coun­cil­lor from the Tu­na­puna/Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion al­so at­tend­ed.

Al-Rawi, who said the event was to as­sist pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, added that the min­istry and PM were pre­pared to col­lab­o­rate with all and the con­ver­sa­tion was to have been very rel­e­vant due to storms and oth­er dif­fi­cul­ties. He not­ed that op­er­a­tional­is­ing of lo­cal gov­ern­ment mat­ters af­fect­ed peo­ple hard­est in their homes.

Al-Rawi cit­ed the min­istry’s re­cent clean-up and sur­vey cam­paign, which re­moved 5,000 truck­loads of ma­te­ri­als and 119 acres of cut­ting, with over 15,000 peo­ple in­volved.

This al­so con­firmed that flood­ing, es­pe­cial­ly in Pe­nal/Debe, Wood­lands, Ca­roni, was caused by un­planned de­vel­op­ments.

«Our meet­ing was to di­rect­ly ad­dress re­lief is­sues on fund­ing, on man­pow­er and at­tend­ing to ser­vices be­ing de­liv­ered,» he added.

«I don’t re­call a Prime Min­is­ter mak­ing him or her­self avail­able to an­swer di­rect ques­tions from all lo­cal gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This was in­tend­ed to be a first in a very long time. But un­for­tu­nate­ly, the Op­po­si­tion Leader de­mand­ed that UNC prac­ti­tion­ers—half the coun­try—not at­tend.

«There­fore, in­for­ma­tion on how we in­tend to op­er­a­tionalise lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­form wasn’t able to be giv­en di­rect­ly to them.»

Al-Rawi added, «I note the boy­cott was led by (Per­sad-Bisses­sar) and I’m in a sense of de­spair that the UNC’s Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment prac­ti­tion­ers have been de­nied prop­er op­por­tu­ni­ty to en­gage in mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion and to have faced the PM and (my­self).»

He said the min­istry want­ed to urge T&T to de­mand of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives that every­one gets on with the busi­ness of rep­re­sent­ing the peo­ple.

Yes­ter­day’s meet­ing was al­so im­por­tant to sur­vey the way ahead to bring lands and as­sets in­to cor­po­ra­tions to as­sist res­i­dents, since the last time as­sets were vest­ed in lo­cal gov­ern­ment, was 2000.

Al-Rawi said Gov­ern­ment will press on with fur­ther pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions and en­gage trade unions.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian