Saturday 1st March, 2008

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Moving right along...

  • T&T South African consul ill.
  • No succession plans in UNC—Bas.
  • COPers cough up the $$.

UNC MP Mikela Panday was busy perusing documents yesterday while Trade Minister Keith Rowley treated MPs in the House of Representatives to a half-hour lesson on the mysteries of the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

Panday, who was at her father’s Privy Council matter in London earlier in the week, returned home Thursday.

Her father—Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday—however was giving his full attention to Rowley at yesterday’s sitting.

And not necessarily for complimentary reasons.

In tight formation, Panday, and UNC MPs Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and Jack Warner, listening to Rowley, appeared by turns amused, mildly bored, then completely uninterested.

Warner sat chin propped on hand.

They weren’t alone. Prime Minister Patrick Manning grabbed his usual snooze. PNM Minister Junior Regrello yawned.

MP Christine Kangaloo conversed with Martin Joseph, and MP Nielung Hypolite with colleague Alicia Hospedales. MP Neil Parsanlal sat chin in hand, a la Jack.

When the UNC trio could stand it no more, they gleefully thumped their desk tops, usually the means by which MPs signal support at the conclusion of an MP’s speech.

On this occasion, however, the only thing the trio meant to signal to Rowley was: stop talking.

They had attempted it three times by the time Rowley rounded into his 25th minute. Then he granted their wish.

Rowley’s discourse on the EPA was one of two issues pertaining to Caricom dealt with at yesterday’s sitting, on the eve of next week’s Caricom inter-sessional meeting in the Bahamas which Manning will attend.

The other issue, the Advanced Passenger Information Bill, was a matter which Caricom leaders agreed to in 2006.

Recent weeks have seen Manning industriously networking with foreign colleagues prior to the summit, receiving the Barbados Prime Minister last week and currently hosting St Vincent counterpart Ralph Gonsalves.

Next week Manning entertains the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

With Jamaica’s PJ Patterson, Barbados’ Owen Arthur and Cuba’s Fidel Castro now off the scene, Manning’s senior status among regional leaders will be reinforced. Indeed, next week’s Caricom inter-sessional will see six new regional heads—out of the 13 territories—in attendance.

Apart from security, regional transport and energy, caucus may be a tad discomforting for new Caricom chairman, Hubert Ingraham, whose colleagues may wish to get Ingraham’s fellow Bahamians to lend more support to the Single Market and Economy—Caricom’s lumbering pet project with something of a “white elephant” reputation.

As well as considering recent grim developments in Guyana—and surprising ones in Cuba—discussions may well include climate change issues, considering how significant that item is on the agenda of next year’s Commonwealth leaders’ conference and the Summit of the Americas, both hosted by T&T.

Government has a new expanded downtown skyline to present to international leaders for the conferences.

Manning himself will have new offices at St Clair Boulevard, Port-of-Spain, from month-end, the Office of the Prime Minister confirmed Wednesday.

Everything is in place for the move to the $51 million building which was formerly earmarked for Public Administration’s head office.

That was shelved to accommodate the OPM while restoration work is done on Whitehall.

Project manager Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) on Thursday confirmed the building was due for occupancy since February but redesign work is being done on levels of the new building earmarked for Manning’s personal offices.

The block-long, four-storey state-of-the-art structure came in within cost.

A Whitehall spokesman said planning of Whitehall’s restoration—for conversion to historical landmark status—is currently in train.

Udecott is handling refurbishment work for Stollmeyer’s Castle, the security checkpoint for Whitehall. Whether Udecott will get the restoration brief remains to be seen.

While the OPM will reside at St Clair Boulevard, the question remains for how long.

After the previous Cabinet’s 2003 proposal to house the OPM at the Red House ignited huge controversy last term, a new home for the Parliament has been hanging fire, along with two reports and several site suggestions on this.

Parliamentarians agreed there was need for a new larger location but felt the Red House should remain “home” until a proper site was found.

The new Parliament’s House Committee held its second meeting of the term yesterday.

Last word on the issue was from Minister Lenny Saith in December 2006—that the Public Administration Ministry would make recommendations for allocation of office space within the Red House when a new Parliament building is completed.

“This allocation will include proposals for the assignment of some space for the Office of the Prime Minister,” Saith had added.

Government has therefore plowed on with Red House restoration and repairs.

TG received a January 22 response from Udecott on the status of the restoration project, which is focused on the Red House’s south wing (where initial reports hinted the OPM might have been housed).

Udecott stated:

“This project includes complete refurbishment and modernisation of the existing 100-year-old building to serve as the Office of the Prime Minister and a Museum of Parliament. (sic).”

Demolition of the south wing is complete. Structural works have begun with completion scheduled within six months.

Works include replacement of damaged roofing, beams and floors, reconfiguration of internal room layout, plus ceiling and floor finishes, new electrical supply and plumbing.

Still plodding though is the new Customs House, expected to have been completed last year. Work was delayed by the July 2006 scaffolding collapse. Yesterday Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira assured the building will be completed later this year.

Jeremie on London post:

‘I’m happy in T&T’

Also yesterday, former Attorney General John Jeremie quashed speculation that he might succeed London high Commissioner Glenda Morean.

Morean leaves London at month-end to become T&T’s ambassador to Washington.

Jeremie said:

“I’m very contented and happy at UWI where I’m a senior lecturer. I’m back in private practice—life has never been so good.”

Meanwhile, South African consul Donna Carter is still convalescing in Costa Rica where she went for treatment after falling ill last year, Government officials confirmed. The mission is headed by the deputy consul.

High commissioner to Canada, Camille Robinson Regis, leaves for her post March 10, Government stated Tuesday.

No succession—Bas

UNC leader Basdeo Panday aroused much mirth—but never answered the question—on Wednesday when asked about his intention regarding succession plans.

“I plan to succeed Mr Manning,” Panday deadpanned to the question which involved his UNC.

Yesterday Panday (firmly) said succession in the UNC is not a matter under discussion at this point:

“We’re concentrating on local government elections. Surely this isn’t the time to think about such things.”

Panday, who begins touring constituencies next week to prepare for the polls, said “some COP people” including councillors have approached the UNC to contest with them.

“We asked them to submit applications. We’ll consider it to choose the best rather than hold grudges,” he said.

COPers put money

where mouth is

COP is resuming Tuesday night meetings next week, thanks to Gerald Yetming, who’s footing the radio broadcast bill for the first at Curepe.

Yetming recently voiced concern about the lapse in meetings and COP’s low public profile.

Yetming and Gary Griffith subsequently came in for flack from COP National Council members including Joseph Toney and Anil Roberts for expressing concerns about COP’s flagging post-polls status.

In the heat of those exchanges, Yetming and Griffith pledged to sponsor broadcasts of the first and second meetings.

Yesterday Yetming said:

“I’m paying for the Curepe broadcast to get the project off the ground and perhaps others. Once COP assumes proper course, they deserve assistance. We’ll see how it goes from Tuesday.”

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