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The saga of Udecott and Calder Hart

Published: 
Thursday, February 23, 2012

 

As its executive chairman, Calder Hart ruled over the Urban Development Corporation of T&T.
That is, until March 2010, when he resigned suddenly in the midst of documents linking him and a company the Udecott board awarded $820 million in contracts. Immediately after his unexpected resignation, Hart, his wife and daughter took a flight to Ft Lauderdale, Florida. It was initially alleged that Hart’s in-laws once sat as directors of Malaysian firm Sunway Construction Caribbean Ltd, which worked on Udecott’s $820 million Ministry of Legal Affairs Towers, which is part of the Government Campus Plaza. That building remains incomplete and unoccupied.
 
Canada-born Hart was the blue-eyed boy of former prime minister Patrick Manning, who praised and defended him no less than 45 times over two years. The allegations against Hart were first made by former Tabaquite representative Ramesh Lawrence in Parliament on May 23, 2008. At the opening of the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel on April 8, 2009, Manning said: “I want to commend everyone on a job well done,” Manning said. “And, of course, you will forgive me, my dear friends, if I specially commend Udecott and Calder Hart, chairman, for the indefatigable efforts they have put in, not just on this project, but the so many others that are springing up all over T&T.” Hart was then the toast of the town. Speaking in Parliament on October 21, 2009, Manning, in defending Hart, labelled him as a public official caught up in a battle between the Prime Minister and his detractors during debate on a bill to validate the proceedings of the Uff Commission of Inquiry.
 
Manning said Hart’s detractors were the “tyranny of the lynch mob” he said. “They want to get Calder Hart, but let me tell you, it is not Calder Hart. It is not Udecott. It is the Prime Minister and the Government; that is what they are after!” Carl Khan, the ex-husband of Hart’s wife, Sherrine, had come forward five months earlier to corroborate Maharaj’s allegations. Commenting on Khan’s allegations, Manning said, “They are not interested in the truth, they prefer to rely on the evidence of a jilted lover.” Speaking at the 2009 opening of the National Academy for the Performing Arts—another Udecott project—Manning hailed Hart. “Many can talk, but few can build,” Manning said. “As the Bible says, by their deeds they shall be known.” But, in addition to praising Hart, the Prime Minister has been consistent in his praise of Udecott as a corporation. He defended the company as he resisted calls for a Commission of Inquiry into its affairs.
 
Hart was at the middle of Manning firing Dr Keith Rowley, then Planning Minister, in April 2008, after Rowley called for greater oversight over Udecott. Manning resisted Rowley’s call for a commission of inquiry into Udecott. On May 12, 2008, Manning defended special purpose state enterprises like Udecott at a PNM breakfast meeting at the Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain, saying companies like Udecott were needed because of “public service bureaucracy.” Even when he announced a Joint Select Committee, and not an inquiry, in a special appearance in the Senate on May 13, 2008, Manning still described allegations against Udecott as “wild, reckless, uninformed statements” and failed to say if the Government had taken steps to investigate the allegations. Even after Maharaj’s allegations were made, the Office of the Prime Minister, on July 18, 2008, revealed that the Prime Minister met with officials from Sunway, the same company linked with Hart. 

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