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Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Communications Minister Gerald Hadeed has accused People’s National Movement (PNM) MP Colm Imbert of creating a “diplomatic mess” with his statements in Parliament last week about Canadian High Commissioner Gerard Latulippe and the SNC-Lavalin issue. But Imbert says he found it “strange” Latulippe wanted him to meet with an SNC-Lavalin representative. Hadeed issued a statement yesterday after Imbert’s remarks in the Parliament last Friday during debate on a motion calling for Government to terminate contractual arrangements with SNC-Lavalin for the Penal hospital construction. Imbert produced news reports which accused SNC-Lavalin of corruption and also said he came under “Canadian pressure” to meet with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the high commissioner after it was revealed he was bringing the motion on SNC-Lavalin to Parliament.
Imbert detailed aspects of Latulippe’s political history, alleging Latulippe resigned in 1987 from the post of Solicitor General of Quebec over improper practices. Latulippe was later reported as saying he was deeply offended by Imbert’s remarks. Commenting on Latulippe’s political career, Hadeed said: “Explaining the situation, Mr Latulippe said he wanted the democratic institutions to be completely free to investigate whether the contracts were given according to the law. “He said after he resigned, a parliamentary committee was appointed to investigate the matter and found every contract was granted correctly and according to rules. High Commissioner Latulippe said the experience was one of the worst of his life and after that he decided to leave politics.” Hadeed said yesterday: “By attacking and wrongfully accusing the official representative of the Canadian Government of improper practices, PNM MP Imbert has created a diplomatic mess with far-reaching negative repercussions for our country.” Hadeed termed Imbert’s accusations against Latulippe “unwarranted, unjustified and inaccurate.”
He noted Latulippe’s statement that he was “deeply offended” by Imbert’s “personal attack” and also noted Latulippe had said Imbert’s speech was irresponsible and had tarnished him personally, as well as his reputation as a representative of the Canadian Government. Hadeed stressed: “The Canadian High Commissioner said he had invited Mr Imbert to a meeting to discuss the SNC-Lavalin situation and Mr Imbert refused. Mr Imbert had the opportunity to ask for the truth and get Mr Latulippe’s side of the story instead of relying on Google.” Hadeed added: “I agree with the High Commissioner that freedom of expression, even under parliamentary immunity, bears responsibility and respect for human rights. “What is worse, is many of our people living in Canada have been calling to say Mr Imbert’s irresponsibility could cost T&T the support of the Canadian Government and other governments who, seeing what has happened to the Canadian representative, may feel that the same or worse could happen to them.” Hadeed said: “This kind of irresponsibility has always caused us problems. Look at what is happening now with the opportunity with the Venezuelan Government to profit from the Loran-Manatee project. “It’s the same kind of wanton disregard for the truth as part of a strategy based on making this Government look bad and keeping us from delivering. What Mr Imbert and his colleagues don’t seem to realise is that in trying to discredit us they are doing immeasurable damage to T&T, its allies and our international reputation.”
Imbert, however, defended his statements yesterday. He said: “I have no intention of getting into any war with a representative of a foreign government and I certainly would not wish to engage in any exchange with His Excellency. “I, however, note two points: That as far as I am aware, after that 1987 incident, the gentleman contested a seat in the 2000 Canadian elections and was unsuccessful and was also appointed as deputy minister in the Quebec provincial government. “So I am assuming he must have been misquoted by the Express when he said after the 1987 incident he decided to get out of politics, as the records showed he, ten years later, contested a seat and was part of the provincial government.” Imbert produced to the T&T Guardian Latulippe’s biography, taken from a release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Canada, which he said confirmed Latulippe was the Deputy Minister of the Quebec Ministry of International Relations from 1997 onwards.
He added: “Secondly, what really bothered me about the request for a meeting with the High Commissioner, which I got via e-mail at 8 am on the Thursday before my motion last Friday, is that in addition to meeting with him and a representative of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, he also asked me to meet with a representative of SNC-Lavalin.” Showing the e-mail to the T&T Guardian, Imbert added: “It was the day before my motion in Parliament and it was public knowledge that I was going to ask Government to terminate the contractual relationship with SNC-Lavalin and I found it very strange he would want me to meet him and an SNC-Lavalin representative.”
Latulippe says: Canadian High Commissioner Gerard Latulippe said yesterday he had nothing else to say on the SNC-Lavalin issue. Contacted for comment on Imbert’s statements, Latulippe said: “I have said what I had to say and I have no further comment.” On Imbert’s claims about his political career, Latulippe said after the 1987 issue, he was in the Liberal Party and stayed until the end of that parliamentary session. He said he had never been elected to the Canadian Parliament after 1989 and was never an MP after that. Other officials told the T&T Guardian the Canadian Parliament was separate and different from that country’s provincial bodies and each had their own divisions. They said it was thus “easy to mix them up.”
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