There has been loud backlash following Minister of Sports Shamfa Cudjoe’s criticism of Budget 2023 critics.
Both Opposition UNC MP Michelle Benjamin and Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah have denounced Cudjoe’s recent remarks, with Benjamin even calling for Cudjoe to apologise.
At a Tacarigua community centre function on Wednesday, Cudjoe reportedly lashed out at critics of the Budget, saying there were some people who “never worked a day in their lives and were still receiving a pension, as the safety net remained strong” and that “people wanted everything right now.”
Benjamin said the statements were “unbelievable, uncouth, cold and callous and an out of touch rant on citizens’ sacrifice.”
Benjamin said, “The Minister is talking about sacrifice. While she may be able to swipe her card and buy anything her heart desires, basic food items are beyond the reach for the average citizen because of Government’s draconian policies, where the only plan is to make the rich get richer with nothing trickling down to the poor, except of course having to pay for their bad decisions.”
She called on Cudjoe to apologise.
“Instead of talking down to citizens, the Minister for Sport and Community Development should come to communities and experience first-hand the suffering of families who are suffering. The Minister owes it to the population to issue a clear and unequivocal apology.”
Benjamin also deemed Cudjoe’s remarks, a “clear indication of Government’s disdain for average, hardworking citizens and true patriots.”
“Is the Minister saying the homemakers, women who spent time building the family, and preparing the doctors, lawyers, teachers and sporting personalities we have today, that they deserve less? If anything, they deserve more. Were it not for them and their labour of love, many of those in positions of power and authority today wouldn’t have been where they are.”
Meanwhile, MSJ leader Abdulah asked the Minister, “Did you sacrifice your tax-free car Shamfa?”
Abdulah said he was “totally disgusted by the arrogance of the PNM Government.”
He added, “From Prime Minister to Shamfa Cudjoe, their utterances are simply getting more and more people extremely angry.”
Abdulah said the Prime Minister, “as usual, berated citizens for not making the right choice” on vehicles, time to leave home so as to not be in traffic and burn fuel and for not being disciplined enough to make work-from- home a real option.
He added, “Then it was Minister Cudjoe’s time to heap scorn on the population. ‘Why is it so hard to sacrifice’ she asked. Firstly, the MSJ, like so many people, asks – what have you sacrificed recently Ms Cudjoe? Did you and your parliamentary colleagues give up your perk of a tax-free vehicle?
“If not, when last did you buy a new car, tax free? And how much did you sell the previous one for? You have your salary, a travelling allowance and other allowances. You have a driver to take you around. Did you sacrifice any of these? Did you take a pay cut?”
Abdulah continued, “But what about the single mother who works as a security guard – 12 hours daily, without overtime; and who has to hustle public transport very early to get to work for 6 am because if she’s late her pay will be deducted, and she doesn’t get home till after 8 pm. Are you saying this worker, who hasn’t had a wage increase in years isn’t making a sacrifice?”
He also raised several other examples, as he questioned Cudjoe over who was making a sacrifice.
Abdulah ended his message to Cudjoe by questioning her lack of care.
“Your arrogance is truly disgusting and the lack of care for the people whom you were elected to serve can no longer be tolerated. And this goes for many of the other ministers who take their cue from their leader.”