Minister for Social Development and Housing, Delma Thomas has warned that “picking and choosing” of people to give government assistance on the basis of political affiliation would never happen under her watch.
The senior government minister made the statement to reporters at a recent post-Cabinet briefing held at the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen, St. George’s.
According to Minister Thomas, this was very much prevalent in the Support for Education Empowerment and Development (SEED) programme under the 2008-2013 Congress government of Tillman Thomas.
She said the one-year old ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has decided to make changes to the programme and to provide for greater transparency in the selection process.
She stated that in the past, the system relied heavily on schools, the Parliamentarian or other persons to identify those in need of help in order to get on the list.
“…We want to see transparency and accountability in the whole process of our things (that) are being delivered,” she said.
“We must agree and appreciate the fact that sometimes when you’re dealing with politicians, human beings, public servants – sometimes you have persons who will have this mentality where because you and I are not friends or because you didn’t support our political party – people use that (against some people) which is not the right thing to do”, she added.
The female Government Minister is adamant that there should not be any political interference when people are in need of assistance.
“At the end of the day, when (my) political career is over I want to be remembered for what I did to those unfortunate, not those who supported NNP or those who didn’t support NNP…”, she remarked.
“…When you are hungry you are really hungry and we have to look and take care of every person who need our assistance,” she said.
Minister Thomas referred to the implementation of an Appeals Committee, which would help put some order into the SEED system.
“You have procedures to follow in ensuring how persons get assistance from government, so no politician should be deciding that you should or shouldn’t get assistance because of your political affiliation but because of your need – you should be part and parcel of whatever programme government has,” she explained.
“We have to face it, people (have) a right to vote for a political organisation of their choice but government has a responsibility to take care of everyone regardless of your political affiliation and we have to change our mindset, how we look at things and how we deal with those issues that confront our children, confront our disabled communities, confront our elderly”, she said.
The SEED programme was developed by government to provide monetary assistance to vulnerable youth to help with their development.