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Reinstate me or else
Dismissed Port Authority of T&T acting CEO Charmaine Lewis has written to the board chairman giving them until Friday to reinstate her or face legal action.
Well-placed sources yesterday told the T&T Guardian Lewis wrote to PATT chairman Allison Lewis and copied the board commissioners last Friday, giving them seven days to respond to her call to withdraw the dismissal.
Lewis, who was dismissed as general manager/CEO via e mail on October 9, received an acknowledgement of her letter via e mail but has received no response as yet.
The T&T Guardian understands Lewis raised concerns that she was not given an opportunity to defend herself and that although port officials claimed they had problems with her, no one ever wrote to her about her performance.
Lewis was dismissed on grounds she refused to proceed on vacation leave as properly directed by the board, various issues/incidents with the board over a six-month period and on the basis of information received from PriceWaterhouseCoopers regarding the ongoing internal investigation into PATT operations. The board told Lewis it had lost all trust and confidence in her after she had served almost three decades in the organisation.
In the three-page letter, Lewis again made the point that Port officials denied her dismissal was linked to her appearance before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee which was investigating issues of procurement of vessels for the sea bridge. Following her testimony before the JSC, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan dismissed her claims as a “blatant lie.” The T&T Guardian understands Lewis felt she was “victimised” because of the evidence she gave.
While Lewis is threatening her action, Trinidad and Tobago Inter-Island Transport Service CEO Leon Grant also remains on suspension with full pay. Grant was sent on “non-disciplinary suspension” on August 15. His suspension was linked to a report leaked to the media relating to the Ocean Flower 2, following a visit which he and the chief engineer Brendon Powder paid to Panama to inspect the vessel. The report detailed a range of issues they felt could have compromised public safety on the vessel, ending in their recommendation that it not be used on the sea bridge until the issues were addressed. The contract with the Ocean Flower 2 was subsequently cancelled.
Grant could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a senior Port official said it was “passing strange” that three months after he was suspended “they have not even set up a tribunal to investigate any matter against him.”
The Ocean Flower 2 sailed into Chaguaramas on October 19, the same day the latest tenders for a passenger ferry for the sea bridge closed. The Ocean Flower 2, which put in a bid for the service, remains docked at Chaguaramas although dry docking work on it has been completed.
The T&T Guardian understands the evaluation committee reviewing the tenders has submitted a report and the PATT board met in emergency session last Saturday to discuss the recommendations.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley assured that efforts were being made to bring about a solution to the sea bridge problem soon.
Port officials yesterday remained tight-lipped on how soon an announcement will be made about the vessel selected for the sea bridge and calls to the mobile phone of chairman Allison Lewis went answered.
Meanwhile, the secretariat of the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Land and Rural Development is in the process of compiling a draft report which will be used by members for discussion. The draft will not be made public but will be a working document. The committee has also had to go through copious notes left for it without review by businessman Christian Moutett, who conducted a one-man inquiry on behalf of the Prime Minister in to the sea bridge operations. Moutett sent a number of documents to the JSC which he did not get time to review because they got to him almost at the end of his compilation of his report. JSC sources said the committee may meet late next week when they will begin their review of the testimony and documents before them.