Trinidad Opposition Legislators Continue Boycott of Parliament

Trinidad opposition legislators on Wednesday continued their boycott of the Parliament claiming that their concerns regarding safety in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were not being addressed particularly after Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has tested positive.

In a statement, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, said that her United National Congress (UNC) legislators “had abstained from today’s sitting of the House of Representatives as our COVID-19 safety concerns are yet to be addressed after raising them almost a week ago”.

Last Friday, the UNC boycotted the sitting of the Lower House and on Tuesday, their senators stayed away from the Senate.

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“Upon the news of the Prime Minister testing positive for COVID-19, the Opposition wrote to the Speaker seeking guidance and assurances that measures were being implemented to protect all members. Days later, it is quite concerning that we have received no response or guidance on a matter which threatens everyone within the Parliament,” she said in a statement.

“One must ask the serious question if Trinidad and Tobago is now a one party state, where opposing voices are being stifled in our Parliament,” she said.

The government legislators had criticised the opposition walkout, saying that the legislators were not taking their functions seriously.

In her statement, Persad Bissessar said her members “take their Parliamentary obligations very seriously, however, as we have seen reported in the media, 35 citizens have gone into quarantine as a result of being primary and secondary contacts of the Prime Minister.

“As it stands, we are still unsure how many members of our House of Representatives have been primary or secondary contacts of the Prime Minister.”

Prime Minister Rowley remains in quarantine in Tobago and earlier this week, a re-test had shown he was still positive.

The government earlier on Wednesday announced it was re-imposing some of the stringent measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 after the twin-island recorded 70 new cases over a 48 hour period.

“I have been authorised by the Honourable Prime Minister to announce the following measures which will kick in for a three week period starting at midnight tonight,” Health Minister Terrence Deyalsimgh told a news conference.

‘There will be no longer allowed in house dining in restaurants, bars, casinos and cinemas,” he said, noting that the new measures would also allow for the closure of beaches across the country.

“We are also reducing public gatherings from 10 persons back to five persons. But we urge persons, the same five persons with masks in the public domain to please institute those same measures in your private settings”

He said that another measure to discourage gatherings beaches “down the islands” would be closed “because there are those who believe down the islands are not part of Trinidad and Tobago.

Persad Bissessar said “today as the Government announces new lockdown measures to try and stem the spike in positive cases, one has to wonder why the Government refuses to subject Parliament to the same standards as the rest of the nation.

“Why is the government applying one rule for citizens and another rule for themselves? The Opposition remains concerned about the Government’s complete mishandling of the health crisis, and we will continue to seek the interests of citizens on this critical matter,” she added.


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