When Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott moves into his $2.5 million home at Federation Villas, he can expect to see familiar faces such as Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of Tobago Development Dr Delmon Baker and another who was demoted in the Cabinet reshuffle in June. Sources yesterday said the politicians were among some of the occupants of the high-class townhouses at Federation Park, St Clair. When contacted, Ramlogan denied that he lived in one of the units, while Baker referred all questions to the Ministry of Housing and its acting permanent secretary Joy Creese. Calls to the other minister’s mobile phone went unanswered. Ramlogan said units were assigned to various ministries. He said foreign lawyers who represented the State would usually stay at the residence instead of the Hyatt which was more costly. “My residence is in San Fernando,” he said. The AG admitted that from time to time he would overnight in one of the units if Parliament sat late into the night or if he had late meetings. “If one is available I would stay, but most times they’re always booked,” he said.
A security guard stationed at the booth outside the property yesterday said Federation Villas was a private development for government officials. It was his only response about the property, despite being questioned for about ten minutes. Two men were seen walking between neatly trimmed hedges and outdoor lamps. The guard refused to say what the men were doing. A silver SUV was parked in the driveway of one of the units, several feet from the remote-controlled gate at the entrance. Towards the side of another unit there were three jhandis (Hindu flags).
The units, which were built townhouse-style, are owned by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). Sources said there were 16 fully-furnished units “which are all outfitted the same.” Walcott’s mother, Beverly, said her son or his coach Sean Roach were better suited to talk about moving into the new home. “I have no idea about it,” she said. For winning a gold medal in the men’s javelin throw, Walcott will also receive $1 million, 20,000 square feet of land in Toco and a scholarship from the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the rewards on Monday during a ceremony at Piarco International Airport. On Wednesday, Walcott enrolled at the university and signed his letter of acceptance to the Certificate in Sport Studies programme for the 2012/2013 academic year. His name will be carried on a new Caribbean Airlines aircraft, and the Toco Lighthouse and Toco Secondary School will be named after him. The PM also announced that the HDC will launch a housing project in Toco.
Imbert: Rewards appropriate
Former government minister under the People’s National Movement, Colm Imbert, said it was his understanding that some government ministers were housed at Federation Villas.
In a telephone interview, Imbert said the development was completed before the May 2010 general election and the units were reserved for use by visiting dignitaries and diplomats.
He said ministers who were in receipt of government housing cannot be entitled to a housing allowance.
“If you have to be placed in government housing then you have to give up the allowance,” he said.
He said there was “some” justification for Tobagonian ministers to stay at the residence.
Commenting on the rewards given to Walcott for his achievement, Imbert disagreed with the particular house and the scholarship.
Everything else, Imbert said, was appropriate.
He said the home at Federation Villas was not a good move.
“They should have given him a stand-alone house.
“They should have identified a suitable property in Federation Park or its environs and renovated it rather than give him a house in that particular development with other government officials,” Imbert said.
He said he believed Walcott should have been given an open scholarship to study at any of the best sporting universities in the world.
He added bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon, the bronze winning 4x400 metre and the 4x100 metre teams should be given a combination of cash and other things and the choice to study sports wherever they wanted.