Monday 15 July, 2019

UNC Chairman: THA's silence on ferry a "slap in the face" for Tobago

Chairman of the United National Congress, David Lee said government's failure to secure a fast ferry for passengers, and the silence of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on the matter, is a "slap in the face" for Tobagonians. 

In a statement issued Monday, Lee said government has a constitutional duty to solve the problems affecting the sea bridge.

“In May of this year the Prime Minister apologized to citizens concerning the inter-ferry service between Trinidad and Tobago and gave a commitment that the situation will be fixed “once and for all" as well as announcing that while the T&T Spirit and the T&T Express are dry-docked for significant maintenance short term leases will be put in place."

“It is therefore quite disappointing that three months later the Prime Minister has yet again been made to apologize as Government has once more failed to source a passenger ferry to properly service the inter-island route coupled with allegations of misconduct in the procurement process.”

“Where is the urgency, priority and patriotism of this Rowley led Government in adequately solving the inter-island ferry woes facing our nation?”

“All Governments have a constitutional, moral and elected duty to respond with urgency to any aspect or situation which threatens the way of life, the economic well-being as well as freedom of movement of its citizens," Lee said.

Lee said the events of the past months show that “not only did this administration refuse to act swiftly but their failure to do so has resulted in many negative repercussions to residents of both Trinidad and Tobago as well as greatly stifling the local economy of Tobago”.

“It was only on Friday that Media reports published a statement of the Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association President Chris James who said that; "since the beginning of the ferry saga the accommodation industry had recorded over 25 million in losses".”

Lee said the problems caused by the ferry crisis goes deeper as families who live on one island but work on the other are severely affected.

“The Government has clearly made a "mess" out of this situation at the expense of citizens and therefore raises the question as to what really are the priorities of this Government?”

“The Government has not made citizen's safety a priority as the murder rate and number of heinous crimes committed against our nationals increase each day. They have not made healthcare a priority as the Couva Childrens Hospital remains closed with reports of drug shortages and other shortcomings plaguing the health system each day, while they have not made the economy a priority as the IMF has stated that the country still faces many economic challenges. Now it would appear that the freedom of movement as well as sustainable operation and growth of Tobago's economy is also not a priority,” he said.

Lee said as the country approaches its 55th anniversary of Independence, this “latest incident of incompetence” has affected national morale.

“The silence and inaction of the Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary as well as the Tobago Members of Parliament in this on-going crisis has been a slap in the face to those they represent."

"This latest incident of incompetence has affected the bond and mechanism which makes us unique as a nation; which is the ability to exist as a twin island Republic and ensure that both islands equitably obtain and operate with the needed amenities and services,” he said.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has scheduled a meeting with Tobago stakeholders to discuss the problems affecting the sea bridge on Monday, August 21, 2017, after the recently leased Ocean Flower 2 failed to arrive in the country on time. 

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