Government adjourns debate on borough bill

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi, from left, goes over notes as Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh makes a statement in the House of Representatives, while Energy Minister Stuart Young and Finance Minister Colm Imbert have a discussion on Friday. – Angelo Marcelle

HOUSE of Representatives leader Camille Robinson-Regis adjourned Friday’s debate on a bill to make Siparia and Diego Martin Regional Corporation-Miscellaneous Provisions (Establishment of the Borough of Diego Martin and Borough of Siparia) Bill 2021, after opposition calls to withdraw it or send it to a joint select committee.

The bill was piloted earlier by Minister of Local Government Faris Al-Rawi who said the Diego Martin and Siparia Regional Corporations each deserved to be made into boroughs due to their population size, development level, business activity, and local features.

He promised that the bill will not alter electoral boundaries in the two regions/new boroughs.

Al-Rawi said the Government has determined that local government reform must be “a feature of an independent and republican TT.”

He welcomed the Court of Appeal’s earlier rejection of a UNC challenge to the government change of local government councillors terms from three to four years.

Al-Rawi said the term extension plus the award of borough status to the two areas would both facilitate local government reform.

“We didn’t arrive here by the whim and fancy of the Government.

“It originates from the express desires of the people of Siparia Regional Corporation and Diego Martin Regional Corporation.”

He said the Diego Martin corporation including the three Diego Martin constituencies while the Siparia corporation included parts of the Point Fortin, Fyzabad, Oropouche East and West constituencies, Siparia being “a very large land mass.”

“It was by way of specific resolutions coming from the respective regional corporations that we found ourselves here.” He said the Diego Martin corporation has passed a resolution to seek borough status on May 2, 2019, and the Siparia corporation on January 21, 2019.

Cabinet had then set up two ministerial committees to investigate the parameters of this issue, based on convention and practice. The Diego Martin committee was chaired by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and the Siparia committee by former agriculture minister Clarence Rambharath.

“We are now able to say by way of local economic development, by way of comparison with the Election and Boundaries Commission, by way of data coming from the field, that Diego Martin and Siparia have cemented themselves in a significant growth pattern.”

He said Diego Martin has an 88,000 electorate, a growing business sector, and features including four health centres, the Defence Force headquarters and several shopping plazas/malls. Siparia has 71,000 voters and “a growing business and agriculture sector”, he said, citing attractions such as the Pitch Lake, La Divina Pastoral Festival and Banwari Man archaeological site.

“The report that came back to the Cabinet was that it was prudent to proceed with the desires of the people of Diego Martin and Siparia.”