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