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Ganga eyes Bas’ meeting, Maxie out hospital

Published: 
Saturday, May 19, 2018

Finance Minister Colm Imbert and UNC Senator Wade Mark were at it again yesterday.

Early in the Senate sitting, both were trading grumbled remarks after Imbert declared mistrust of Mark’s arithmetic.

“You all let me know when you’re ready for me to start formal proceedings,” Senate President Christine Kangaloo reminded both.

But half hour later, as Imbert lavishly praised Opposition and Independent senators for Insurance Bill deliberations, he conceded on Mark’ determination that the bill had 282 clauses.

“I trust his arithmetic in that case,” Imbert grinned.

Agreement on the voluminous Insurance Bill, though Mark still had certain suggestions, was one of the few times both political sides have stood together on something. Certainly, none of that occurred with Government’s recent economic uptick announcement.

At Tuesday’s Senate, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West was still saying “(UNC) Senator (Taharqa) Obika, please stop saying the economy has crashed!”

Government, however, can expect scepticism if facts of the economic movement are limited to Parliament presentation and PNM chest-thumping.

With PNM’s most significant political challenge to the Opposition to date, its widely touted economic achievement, the UNC on Tuesday strengthened profile slightly with deputy leader Jearlean John debuting as a temporary Senator.

While John’s among UNC’s political weaponry, particularly in the East-West corridor, and PNM MP Maxie Cuffie’s constituency which she’s “working”, it remains ahead how much pushback UNC’s moves will impact on Government’s economic positives.

Cuffie’s relatives said Cuffie, following recent successful neurosurgery, was discharged from hospital on Thursday, “is much improved” and back at his Washington apartment. They expect he’ll remain under observation in the US another few weeks.

The Opposition had banked heavily on negative Government image resulting from the economic downturn’s impact on J Public. And Government’s well aware of UNC’s political predicament in a positive economic landscape.

Imbert in debate, after Opposition down-cry of the economic uptick, queried how the UNC would cope with the 2019 Budget and if Panadol and Limacol would be conscripted to handle their (political) headaches.

More immediate buzz for UNC though, is tomorrow’s (Sun) meeting by supporters of former UNC leader Basdeo Panday and daughter Mickela to discuss T&T’s political climate.

Whether the meeting decides if Panday, 85 next Friday, enters a new political phase or his daughter does, remains ahead.

How concerned UNC’s leadership is about the development can be gauged by yesterday’s sudden Opposition release, on the eve of Panday’s meeting, signalling UNC’s leadership is “taking in front” on the matter. Literally.

UNC announced that party leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar will be honoured at today’s Indian Arrival Day celebrations by the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), where she’ll speak, at a Chaguanas venue similar to Panday’s meeting tomorrow.

Persad-Bissessar’s address will likely target UNC faithful, seeking to steady party foundation against possible Panday “putsch”.

Precautionary indeed. UNC Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh, recently shifted to last on the Opposition backbench, confirmed “active consideration” to attend Panday’s meeting.

Singh added yesterday: “As a student of T&T political history it’s an interesting development: the first time in political history a former PM, founder of the UNC, is contemplating forming an alternative political party. We’re living in interesting times.”

Some from Panday’s heyday were invited to the open forum. Ex-sidekick Jack Warner, an invitee said, “I have a prior engagement. I wish them the best and will monitor developments.”

Also invited, senior counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said, “I’ll be overseas, but I wish the meeting well.”

Former Naparima MP Nizam Baksh confirmed invitation from Mickela, but says Ramadan fasting’s started. Ex-MP Chandresh Sharma said Wednesday he was at a funeral and didn’t say “yea” or “nay.” UNC’s Fazal Karim said he wasn’t invited.

If not for Government’s economic uptick, UNC officials may not have been watching to see if the Pandays’ future path may cross UNC’s in traditional strongholds.

However, Roodal Moonilal, whom Panday mentored, said, “People are free to meet the public. But T&T’s always been a two-party system, I don’t see that changing.”

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