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Govt’s hands may be tied

Published: 
Saturday, July 8, 2017
PM admits Burke has edge with HDC contract
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley leaves the VIP Lounge at Piarco International Airport yesterday, followed by Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young, after the Prime Minister hosted a press conference on his return from Grenada. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has admitted that the Housing Development Corporation may have no choice but to allow Sea Lots community leader Cedric Burke to complete the contract he has on a development in Bon Air, Arouca.

He also admitted his Government did not undertake due diligence in appointing the board of directors of the East Side Plaza and New City Mall, Port-of-Spain.

His comments came yesterday, after he was asked by the T&T Guardian if Burke would be allowed to keep his contract, given that he (Rowley) had fired Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald for aligning herself with Burke.

“If it is that Mr Burke has a contract ...I hope you are not asking the Office of the Prime Minister to disregard the existence of a contractual arrangement, because Mr B or Miss A would simply go to court and the next thing you know we would lose the case and then you’ll ask me why you have done that?”

Asked if he was aware of a “Rasta City” video displaying photographs of community leaders armed with a variety of arsenal, which has been circulating on social media since last August, and if an investigation had been undertaken by law enforcement officers to arrest those involved, Rowley said any video that identifies individuals with weapons which appeared to be pointing of criminal conduct of any kind should attract the attention of all the security services.

“I have every confidence that the police service would be onto it if warrants attention.”

The criteria used in selecting Sea Lots contractor Kenroy Dopwell to the two boards, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development once managed by Marlene McDonald, as well as who selected him for the positions were also queried.

In giving an explanation, Rowley said: “I must say we did not do an international due diligence in who goes there.”

Describing East Side Plaza as a Charlotte Street market, Rowley said people who were appointed to these boards were actively involved in their community.

“That’s the basis on which Mr Dopwell’s name would have been accepted under, he being an active person in and around there. I don’t know if it is something that I can assist you with at this point in time as to why Mr Dopwell …. I don’t know who recommended him.”

He said a sub-committee of Cabinet makes recommendations and appoint boards. The committee can make nominations depending on what the boards require or what skills are available in their ministry and community, Rowley added.

“So no minister appoints all the members to a board,” he said.

Dopwell had accompanied Burke to President’s House last Friday to witness the swearing-in ceremony of McDonald, who was later fired as a result of her association with Burke.

In Wednesday’s Trinidad Guardian, Burke admitted that he was awarded an HDC contract in the Bon Air South Housing project in Arouca.