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PM’s port probe just PR, says Kamla

Published: 
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has dubbed the probe announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley into the procurement process for the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2 as a “public relations gimmick.”

And she is calling on businessman Christian Moutett to step down from the position.

She contends that without the legal authority to enforce the attendance of anyone or to demand the production of any documents Moutett would have to rely on “voluntary participation in his probe by persons who may be culpable,” which would render “any probe into Ferrygate a mere public relations gimmick.”

Persad-Bissessar said “this increasingly sordid investigation mess is now bigger than the ferry fiasco. This is bigger than the collapse of the sea bridge.”

She accused Rowley of “seeking to sub-contract out the work of Cabinet,” by asking a businessman “without any legal authority and who does not appear to have any previous experience or expertise for this type of investigation,” to investigate processes and policy implementation at the Port Authority “which may involve criminal wrongdoing and misconduct in public office.”

As a “respected businessman,” she said, Moutett should “reconsider his position in the public interest,” and not be “used” by the Rowley administration in what she described as a “PR gimmick to sanitise its polluted governance.”

She is also calling on Moutett to say whether his business will be affected by the proposed construction of an interchange at the intersection of the Old Southern Main Road and the Churchill Roosevelt Highway.

If it is, she said, then Moutett and his business will be in or may have already started a protracted negotiation with the government over compensation for relocation, which means, she said, that Moutett “will depend on the State for a negotiated outcome in his favour.”

This, she said, “places him in a compromised position,” and on this ground alone she said he “must step down.”

To make matters worse, she said “we now learn that Mr. Moutett is undertaking this task free of charge. This is a serious matter...It is not about “helping out a partner for free”.

She is also calling for the resignations of the members of the Board of the Port Authority and Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan.

In a media release late Tuesday night the Board of the Port Authority indicated that “its procurement process may have been compromised”. Persad-Bissessar said, “the resignation of the Chairman and Board must be accepted as a minimum condition as we try to flesh out the mysterious and dastardly series of events that have led to this crisis.”

She said the Cabinet and by extension, its committees have the responsibility to demand accountability from State enterprises and corporations but felt that Cabinet oversight had “collapsed under the weak leadership of Keith Rowley.”

Persad-Bissessar said Rowley needs to “bring clarity as to how the Port Authority can undertake an investigation into itself while the Prime Minister and Cabinet purport to appoint a “sole investigator” into the procurement of the sea bridge vessels.

The Prime Minister, she said, must say “who or which organisation is investigating on behalf of the Port and who are they reporting to.”

Persad-Bissessar said if it is true that accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) is the PATT’s selected investigator, then the country should be told on what basis was this company selected.