Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s lawsuit against Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal will be heard in court this week.
He told party supporters at the PNM’st 48th Annual Convention at Shaw Park, Tobago, the Opposition has been peddling fake news and described as a “monstrous lie” claims that he had a bank account in Florida and had received money from AV Drilling.
In his wide ranging address, Rowley said crime and corruption were two of the biggest threats facing T&T and they require a consistent fight by his Government.
“Not a white collar criminal has seen the inside of a jail yet,” he said.
He said his Government has been going after white-colour crime in Eden Gardens, the Port Authority and the EMBD, which many viewed as a witch hunt for cheap political points.
“But historically nothing ever seemed to be concluded and persons were never held accountable, so I understand your scepticism and cynicism,” he said.
The Prime Minister said in social circuits and rum shops people have been saying they do not mind if “the Government thief as long as they run some money and they could get something.”
He added: “That is what people are asking you to accept… asking you to accept candidates with criminal charges over their heads, asking you to accept leadership in parties with people who are known to have questions to answer for the public trust.”
Rowley urged the population to reject infections which can lead to the country’s economic strangulation.
Rowley said some people feel that only “a thiefing government” could perform to satisfy their needs.
He vowed to lead the fight against white-collar crime which he assured would neither be “political or personal.”
Stating that T&T was faced with a cancer of corruption which was enriching the lives of many, Rowley said: “For too long justice did not prevail in corruption scandals. We need to walk this country back to where politics is a noble calling.”
He gave the examples of the Curepe Interchange and Manzanilla Highway projects which under the UNC were costing taxpayers $336 million more than his Government had tendered for.
“How is that possible? Ask yourself, where were that $336 million dollars going?” he asked.
He also listed six projects—the Point Fortin Hospital, Red House, White Hall, Sangre Grande Hospital, President’s House and Brian Lara Cricket Stadium—which the PNM had re-tendered when they took office in 2015. Those projects are now costing taxpayers $1.565 billion less.
He said in a bid to stop corruption, the Whistleblower Protection Bill was laid in Parliament and went before a committee. However, he said, the Opposition rejected, delayed and objected to the legislation and it was taken out of committee.
“We will get it to the floor for debate with a special majority and other amendments they wanted and we will put it to the vote at the earliest opportunity. By the end of March we will have our Parliament vote on that.”
On the issue of campaign finance reform, Rowley said since 2011 the PNM has been the only political party which has been co-operating in effort to enact legislation.
He said legislation would be introduced next year with the expectation that it will be enacted well ahead of the 2020 general election.
“We have involved the courts and the police. Many matters are engaging law enforcement and that explains the behaviour displayed by some of my parliamentary colleagues and their enablers,” he said
Rowley, who devoted a sizeable portion of his address to “threats posted on social media”, said local newsrooms were “flooded with a constant diet of misinformation and fake news from idle former UNC millionaire ministers and their paid agents and underlings working overtime to shape the national psyche after their own likeness and image.”
Rowley urged editors to do fact checking before stories go public.