One month ago, mother of two, Debe hairstylist Ria Sookdeo, kissed her children goodbye as she dropped them off at school.
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I’m not firing her
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says Marlene Mc Donald will not be fired as Housing Minister.
He made the comment yesterday as he defended the latest call from Fixin’ T&T to remove her from his Cabinet amid allegations by Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge that she allegedly used her office several years ago to help secure a Fidelis Heights townhouse for her husband.
Speaking at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex in Tobago during an official visit, Rowley said Mc Donald had taken personal responsibility for treating with the allegations made against her.
He also challenged the United National Congress to provide proof of the claims, saying until that was done Mc Donald remained in his Cabinet
“She was able to explain to the population, as she did yesterday, she did in fact enquire, and I think she enquired minister to minister,” Rowley said.
“She has denied enquiring minister to staff member as a member of the Cabinet. If a minster is going to be fired for enquiring from another minister I should be sitting here.
“I do that every day because when you represent the public, a member of my family might be a member of the public, when asked about something what do I tell them, that I can’t help you?
“Because I will tell you one thing, as a politician, I have been there for almost 30 years, I was instructed from day one never tell a member of the public that you can’t help them.”
Rowley said in his view Mc Donald did no wrong, adding he believes she is also capable of defending herself on the recent allegations levelled against her
“Every single member of the Government is responsible for his or her own conduct. However, when the allegations are made against all of us, as they will be made or have been made, the next step is whether the allegations are supported.
“I tell my colleagues in the Cabinet that allegations will be made and what you have to be sure about is that there is no support for the allegations in fact,” he said.
During a press conference on Monday, Mc Donald admitted that as community development minister in 2007, she made enquiries about the status of an application to purchase State housing on behalf of someone with whom she had a “personal relationship.”
However, she denied allegations by Sturge that she had any beneficial interest in the property which he alleged she acquired for her husband, who was identified as Michael Carew.
She said, however, that as Port-of-Spain South MP she often made enquiries to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to ascertain the status of applications with respect to many citizens.
But she also noted that she held no office in the housing ministry at the time.
“Accordingly, I did not, and could not, cause any house to be allocated to the particular citizen,” she said, adding that even after the enquiry she also “could not, and in fact did not do anything to promote, or accelerate the said application.”
On claims that a person alleging to be her adviser had issued correspondence which revealed evidence of an intention on her part to ensure that the particular citizen was issued with a house, McDonald said:
“In this regard, it is very important to note that the person identified as my adviser, by those who have made claims against me, was not in any way whatsoever an adviser of mine, nor was that person in any way associated with me.”
She said she had spoken to Rowley on the matter and was ready to co-operate with any Integrity Commission probe.