Tag: Dr Keith Rowley

PM- The Gravy Train done

The Prime Minister alleged the former People’s Partnership Government had spent $1 billion in communication, advertising and branding from 2013 to 2015.

This was made up of $700 million spent by the Government, plus about $400 million spent by the National Gas Company (NGC), the latter in contrast to a usual annual figure of $20 million, he said.

Rowley read a NGC document titled Suspicious Transactions from 2010 to 2015, that alleged “a record of deliberate attempts to conceal expenditure, indefensible wastage and siphoning of money.” He said from 2013 to 2015, the NGC spent some $915 million on 46 CSR projects relating to road-works and recreational facilities ($422 million) and communications ($493 million.)

“So NGC became a road-worker and a communicator.” Rowley lamented most projects were in areas other than Port of Spain and Diego Martin.

He said $258 million worth in such contracts for road-works were awarded to one contractor, SIS. “They went back into NGC. Fourteen projects for $274 million were put into PSAL to be awarded without proper process and scrutiny.”

He said a small handful of people got largesse under the former government. Rowley added, “The gravy train done. Good government reach.”

He recalled the Integrity Commission probing him over Landate, and said if they don’t now probe alleged corruption under the PP, they have some explaining to do. Rowley scoffed that an MP had complained to the commission that he was selling his autobiography, and said he had not met any author who made money from such. “One book-selling house told me, ‘We normally sell about 12 copies.’ I gave that book as a donation to a number of young people.

“And I now have to hire a lawyer to protect myself from the Integrity Commission. If you don’t see me here one of those days, it’s because the Integrity Commission has gone with me.”

Rowley hit Persad-Bissessar’s motion as a poor substitute for a no-confidence motion against him. “We are ready for a vote of no confidence,” he said.

PM: Couva Hospital to be opened in phases

The Prime Minister says with an operator, the Couva Hospital can be operationalised on a phased basis this year.

He was responding to prime minister’s questions in the House on Friday from Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe on when the Couva Hospital will be ready for use.

Dr Rowley said the initiative is to export healthcare using the facility and the Government, through the Health Ministry, and is currently engaged in putting that in place.

“It is taking a little while longer than we had anticipated, but we are advised by the University of the West Indies (UWI) that they are moving as fast as they can.”

He said a special-purpose company was set up in 2018 and consideration is being given to an operator for phased operationalisation later in the year. Bodoe asked if there were any provisions for local healthcare workers in the project.

Rowley replied, “I couldn’t give you the exact details, but certainly it will be an opportunity for healthcare providers of the highest quality and numbers in that hospital to provide healthcare for the national community but with a focus on exporting healthcare services.”

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked about the phased operationalisation, but Rowley said he would not engage in guesswork but will wait until the final arrangements.

Bodoe asked if there was any assurance TT citizens will not have to pay. Rowley said the hospital is meant to be a fee-earning entity, but charges to citizens will be borne by the Government, as is done at other hospitals.

Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie asked about UWI’s involvement in the project. Rowley said the project started with a requirement of the Government to discharge its responsibility to UWI, as there was a claim of more than $200 million owing to the university. He said Government agreed to use the asset base to discharge the payment and UWI accepted it would be paid via asset transfer.

“We went further, where the UWI and the Government of T&T through the Ministry of Health would operate a hospital for profit providing additional training and services to the local and international community. And that is what is being worked on.” He added: “We do not have the final arrangements, as that is being worked out, but as soon as those final arrangements are available, as the Government always does, it will make them available to the population.”

Moonilal goes to court this week

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.

PM- “White-collar crime a National Cancer in T&T”

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley has  warned those in­volved in cor­rup­tion, fraud and white-col­lar crime to watch out, as the procla­ma­tion of the Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion and Dis­trict Crim­i­nal and Traf­fic Courts will now go af­ter wrong­do­ers.

Cab­i­net yes­ter­day agreed that on De­cem­ber 1 the procla­ma­tion will go in­to ef­fect.

The leg­is­la­tion is geared to­wards tack­ling cor­rup­tion and com­plex fraud cas­es and will utilise spe­cialised judges and mag­is­trates to deal with cor­rup­tion and white-col­lar cas­es in court.

Speak­ing at yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s, Row­ley spoke at length on three is­sues, pro­cure­ment, se­cre­cy and white-col­lar crime and cor­rup­tion, say­ing there was a view by some that “all ah we thief” in re­fer­ring to his Gov­ern­ment.

But in the last three years Row­ley said his Gov­ern­ment has been open and trans­par­ent to the pop­u­la­tion. He said his Gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of not fol­low­ing prop­er pro­cure­ment process­es and op­er­at­ing in se­cre­cy, but this be­hav­iour was in fact the trade­mark of the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Touch­ing on white-col­lar crime, Row­ley said he had no idea how cor­rupt T&T was un­til he as­sumed of­fice in 2015.

“The in­for­ma­tion that comes to me on a reg­u­lar ba­sis in the con­duct of pub­lic af­fairs tells me that the peo­ple of T&T need to be aware of the ex­tent of the in­sid­i­ous cor­rup­tion that per­me­ates this coun­try and its busi­ness…in the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors,” he said.

He said a lot of the pri­vate sec­tor ac­tiv­i­ties were in­ter­re­lat­ed to pub­lic sec­tor busi­ness and “white col­lar crime is a na­tion­al can­cer in T&T” which his Gov­ern­ment in­tends to fight head-on.

“In our so­ci­ety, a large pro­por­tion of our cit­i­zens be­lieve that the law is on­ly ap­plic­a­ble to the down­trod­den and op­pressed in cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties and there­fore white-col­lar crime is above the law.”

Row­ley said what this Gov­ern­ment “is do­ing is mak­ing it clear to all cit­i­zens that no­body is above the law,” adding white-col­lar crime was just as detri­men­tal to cit­i­zens’ well-be­ing as the vi­o­lent crimes seen every day.

“And those who be­lieve they could com­mit the white-col­lar crime and get away be­cause the sys­tems don’t work they have an­oth­er thought com­ing be­cause we are chang­ing the sys­tems to make the sys­tem work.”

Row­ley al­so spoke about the ma­jor de­vel­op­ment that oc­curred on Mon­day in­volv­ing one of the biggest cas­es of al­leged white-col­lar crime in T&T to reach the courts. He said the Court of Ap­peal had au­tho­rised the Es­tate Man­age­ment Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny (EM­BD) to fol­low the mon­ey in its pur­suit of al­leged wrong­do­ing.

The mat­ter in­volves the EM­BD, where peo­ple are ac­cused of bribery, col­lu­sion and dis­hon­est con­duct in the award of the Ca­roni Road con­tract.

The court ruled that the “EM­BD has suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to war­rant its re­quest to pur­sue per­sons by fol­low­ing the mon­ey that was paid by the com­pa­ny to cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als for whom Dr Roodal Mooni­lal had re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for.”

A to­tal of ap­prox­i­mate­ly $400 mil­lion was paid out on the eve of the 2015 gen­er­al elec­tions un­der these con­tracts.

The PM said for the first time pub­lic of­fi­cers and their as­so­ciates would be be­fore the court to ac­count for spe­cif­ic ac­tions. He said such a case had se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions.

“It should be pos­si­ble to hold pub­lic of­fice and leave and not be afraid of every po­lice uni­form you see or every siren you hear,” Row­ley said. “I want to let you know this has noth­ing to do with any per­son­al­i­ty.”

“Be­cause many oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies have found in­for­ma­tion which they have con­vert­ed to ev­i­dence and have iden­ti­fied per­sons who have ques­tions to an­swer and those mat­ters are to be dealt with prop­er­ly in a place of law,” he said.

Rowley said this is not the only corruption matter which will be coming to the courts. While some claim these matters are being dealt with in secrecy, the PM declared, “That secrecy is only temporary because at the end of the day it is all going to come out in the wash.”

Expressing surprise the media was unaware of the court’s ruling and the far reaching implications of this decision, Rowley produced a Cabinet note dated December 4, 2014, to show the then People’s Partnership government breached procurement procedures in its $228 million acquisition of the TTS Nelson from the Chinese government for the Coast Guard.

He said the contract to execute the vessel’s purchase was dated July 13, 2015. The protocol of delivery and acceptance for the TTS Nelson II was signed on September 6, 2015, 24 hours before the general election. Rowley said this was in sharp contrast to the transparent manner that he briefed the population about Government’s intention to purchase two Cape Class vessel from Australia for the Coast Guard.

The PM said the Opposition was also misleading the population about confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses in contracts were “a harbinger of corruption.” Rowley explained this was standard in all government to government and commercial arrangements. He observed the PP had no issue in signing the contract to purchase the TTS Nelson II with those clauses intact. Referring to former minister Wendell Mottley being awarded the Order of the Republic of TT hours earlier, Rowley said people must see public service as honourable again not something flavoured by corruption.

Communications Minister Stuart Young said Government’s efforts to fight corruption will be bolstered by the proclamation of the Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Court Act on December 1. Young said this will allow the court to properly deal with a host of corruption matters and also long standing traffic matters which create a backlog in the court system. On the latter, Young said matters could be dealt with by telephone or video-conferencing if necessary.

Rowley said UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal’s attempt to blame the PNM for flooding in Greenvale was an attempt to distract public attention from serious developments in court regarding corruption. The PM promised to speak to the media today at the Parliament at 11.30 am about all issues pertaining to Greenvale.

PM- People find a way to make negatives out of everything

Al­though T&T is fac­ing a dif­fi­cult pe­ri­od fol­low­ing dev­as­tat­ing flood­ing last week­end, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley ad­mits he felt com­pelled to turn down help from Cari­com coun­tries be­cause “we have been cop­ing …. and cop­ing very well.”

Row­ley said he said noth­ing wrong by not ac­cept­ing help from our Caribbean neigh­bours.

At a sod turning ceremony for the new Diego Martin health centre yesterday morning, Dr Rowley said it was sad that at a time when the national spirit rose higher than expected, some people found a way to dim our light.

As he cel­e­brat­ed his 69th birth­day with smiles, an up­beat Row­ley said as cit­i­zens we con­tin­ue to pull our­selves down when we should be putting our­selves up.

“Peo­ple in this coun­try mis­er­able yuh know… can­tan­ker­ous … to the ex­tent that some­times they miss the flow­ers and they miss the gen­tle breeze.”

“They can find the way, if given a chance, to make negatives out of every possible thing. So I take the opportunity now to clarify a couple of things for the benefit of the national community.”

Row­ley not­ed that sev­er­al Caribbean prime min­is­ters had con­tact­ed him on Mon­day to ex­press their con­cern for the peo­ple of T&T. But he said when his Cari­com col­leagues called to of­fer help, it wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly im­plied or meant that they would hand the coun­try a cheque.

“What is wrong with us? When my Caricom colleagues, all of whom, from Suriname to Jamaica, called to commiserate with us and they said well if you need help we here, it is like somebody saying to you, ‘how you do’ and you start reading out your medical condition and the last visit to the doctor. These are not questions that require an answer. It wasn’t meant that they were going to hand us a cheque. It meant they were acknowledging we were in difficulty and they were standing with us firstly in spirit and secondly if physically they could contribute then they would,” Rowley said.

“There is an is­sue now that we were of­fered help from our Cari­com ter­ri­to­ries and the Prime Min­is­ter turned it down,” he said.

He said it was very easy for people to criticise.

Rowley said many people told him how close they came to death.

“It happened so quickly to those in the buildings but then people say the Coast Guard and army weren’t there.”

He said while there was very little that could have been done to prevent the flooding, as his government moved forward it would learn from the experience.

“Let us not pull ourselves down.

“As we go forward, let us be grateful as a people.”

Row­ley said the coun­try has to give thanks that hav­ing faced a 6.9 mag­ni­tude earth­quake in Au­gust and the re­cent floods, “Trinidad and To­ba­go can re­port that we lost no life and no limb.”