Fuad backs Ganga on pension vote

UNC MP Fuad Khan, who said he shares the same be­liefs as col­league Gan­ga Singh, chose to leave the Par­lia­ment on Fri­day be­fore the vote on Gov­ern­ment’s pen­sion amend­ments “be­cause I didn’t want to be sub­ject­ed to the vote, on this. Had I been there, I don’t know what I’d have done” Khan added yes­ter­day.

Singh vot­ed with Gov­ern­ment on four claus­es of a pack­age of amend­ments for en­hanced pen­sions for leg­is­la­tors, the prime min­is­ter, pres­i­dent and judges.UNC didn’t sup­port those amend­ments.
How­ev­er, Singh vot­ed against an­oth­er as­pect of the pack­age con­cern­ing the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Bill and left be­fore the rest was de­bat­ed. The Bill was passed since it on­ly re­quired Gov­ern­ment votes.

UNC deputy leader David Lee said Singh was wrong to flout the par­ty line. An­oth­er Op­po­si­tion MP Su­ruj Ram­bachan said he him­self was a team play­er and felt par­ty uni­ty was para­mount. Oth­er MPs de­clined to com­ment.

Khan said he was at the Par­lia­ment but left at 8.30 pm be­cause “I didn’t want to sub­ject my­self to the vote specif­i­cal­ly on the mat­ter of pen­sions for leg­is­la­tors/judges. I don’t give two hoots about the as­pect of the PM and Pres­i­dent.

He added: “I have the same be­liefs and feel­ings as Gan­ga on the pen­sions. If faced with the vote, I can’t say what I’d have done. I be­lieve in the strength of con­vic­tions but I al­so be­lieve in col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ty, so it all de­pends on which pull is great­est.”
“How­ev­er I ad­mire Gan­ga for his strength, courage and con­vic­tion of what he be­lieves to be right. When some­one does some­thing like that to as­sist par­lia­men­tary col­leagues who can’t be here, peo­ple should ad­mire it.

“I know the po­lit­i­cal trolls will be sic’ed on him to de­mol­ish him but change on­ly oc­curs when some­one works with their con­vic­tions. Gan­ga’s send­ing a mes­sage that one shouldn’t op­pose for op­pos­ing sake, but must ex­am­ine facts,”

“I’ve been an MP for al­most 25 years and have heard the cries of for­mer par­lia­men­tary col­leagues who can’t af­ford health and med­ical ben­e­fits. I know many who be­came des­ti­tute, judges al­so. As Health Min­is­ter, peo­ple begged for hand­outs for med­ical treat­ment.”

Asked what he would do if con­front­ed with the sit­u­a­tion again and had to vote on an is­sue on which he’s con­flict­ed, Khan said: “I’m com­ing to the twi­light of my po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and may not be there af­ter this term. Some­times po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­ri­ty and the need for in­de­pen­dence sets in for Trinidad and To­ba­go’s good, so one might take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to life.”

UNC ac­tivist De­vant Ma­haraj who sup­port­ed Singh’s uni­ty call said he was puz­zled by the MP’s ac­tion. While he felt Singh was on his way out, he felt the move was “in keep­ing with his char­ac­ter to get UNC to heed the views of some who feel more needs to be done to win the elec­tion.”

UNC PRO sen­a­tor Ani­ta Haynes said the par­ty isn’t rush­ing to act on Singh but is cur­rent­ly fo­cus­ing on par­lia­men­tary and oth­er busi­ness.

She gave that re­sponse when asked about UNC ac­tivist Capil Bis­soon’s let­ter call­ing for the par­ty’s dis­ci­pli­nary team to meet be­fore Sep­tem­ber and re­move Singh from Par­lia­ment and the par­ty.

Some UNC of­fi­cials said Singh didn’t at­tend last week’s par­ty cau­cus on the pen­sions is­sue and if he had act­ed on prin­ci­ple should va­cate his seat if he didn’t sup­port the UNC’s po­si­tion.

Bis­soon had said it wasn’t Singh’s “ first open re­bel­lion against the leader and par­ty, but it should be his last.”

Haynes said a lot of mem­bers not­ed Singh’s ac­tion and had cer­tain re­ac­tions and were free to air views.

“But the par­ty hasn’t dis­cussed the mat­ter. We’re not rush­ing any­thing. Cur­rent­ly, we’re fo­cus­ing on par­lia­men­tary busi­ness as we’re see­ing a dis­man­tling of de­mo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tems by Gov­ern­ment, so na­tion­al mat­ters are the pri­or­i­ty,” she said.

The UNC tonight launch­es a new out­reach, The Pave­ment Re­port, a se­ries of week­ly meet­ings to deal with Gov­ern­ment “mis­in­for­ma­tion” start­ing in Cou­va South.

- by Gail Alexander-Waller

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