Monday, 19 September 2016 14:51

UNC: Pro-Country or Anti-PNM?

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The United National Congress (UNC) opposition’s failure to support the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), has demonstrated once again the glaring inconsistencies in their flippant stance on matters of major national importance. The latest, which could have dire consequences for financial institutions and businesses engaged in international trade, seems to point again towards an inconsistency in positions taken by the UNC Opposition versus distinctly divergent positions taken when they were in Government.

In the case of FATCA, the Minister of Finance revealed in the Parliamentary Debate that he has been aware of identical legislation since May 2013 and the former PP Government headed by Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, had agreed via a Cabinet decision, to have the agreement signed by the end of that year. So what has changed between then and now?

The UNC in Opposition has been consistent only in being inconsistent. I take you back to another conspicuous example, the recent Anti-Gang Act and Bail (Amendment) Act which the UNC piloted and championed when in Government but again backtracked and reversed their position, when asked to support its extension.

Another item of national and regional importance on which the UNC has again flip-flopped is the issue of the Caribbean Court of Justice. It was under the UNC that T&T agreed to the establishment of the CCJ. But when in Opposition after PNM was installed as the Government, the UNC in Opposition did not support this country’s acceptance of the CCJ as its final appeal court.

Then Party’s Chairman Wade Mark speaking on the issue in July 2003 commented, “Our position has remained consistent. The Party’s position on the CCJ remains unshakeable”, unshakable in terms of nonsupport of the CCJ. Continuation Sheet

In light of that, one can imagine the country’s surprise when it awoke to news in August 2012 in commemoration of the country’s 50th Independence celebrations that Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then PM, had announced that legislation would soon be brought to make the CCJ this country’s final appellate court on criminal matters. A welcomed announcement in many quarters, but no one held their breath. No further move has been made since then and one can only speculate whether the UNC has again reversed its position on this issue.

The UNC’s lack of support for anything positive for our beloved country goes as far back to the 90s when in Opposition they opposed the creation of the Police Complaints Authority and changing of the financial year.

However, when they formed the Government and presented the two pieces of legislation, the PNM did not hesitate and wholeheartedly supported the measures.

Compare this to the PNM as a responsible opposition in the period 2010 to 2015. Support for legislation was not based on being Anti-UNC or simply opposing for opposing sake. The record will show that the former PNM Opposition supported more pieces of legislation than possibly any other Opposition in this country’s history, not for mere political gain but in the national interest.

One of the first acts as Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Rowley was to ensure his team supported the first budget presented by the Kamla Persad Bissessar Government in 2010.

Further, the PNM opposition took a leading role in Committees in crafting amendments and strengthening legislation by collaborating with the then government for the greater national good.

One only has to look to Bills with major national implications such as the Anti-Gang Bill, Anti-Terrorism Bill, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago Bills, and the Interception of Communications Bill to name a few, which the responsible PNM opposition then contributed to and supported. Support was not dependent on possible political gains but on an understanding that Government and Opposition must come together, more often than not, for the greater good in an effort to improve the lives of all citizens.

The inconsistent behavior demonstrated by the UNC is symptomatic of an irresponsible Opposition which may not have the real national interest at heart but is pursuing its own selfish political agenda. The UNC has signaled that it is not willing, in its behavior and actions to be pro Trinidad and Tobago but rather to be Anti-PNM. It is an illogical and irrational position to hold as it will lead to continued “opposing for the sake opposing” and the UNC continuing to be consistent only in being inconsistent.

Ashton Ford
General Secretary

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