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Criminals getting access to state $$

... defends Couva statement
Published: 
Saturday, November 25, 2017
PM admits to unfortunate trend
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley looks on as acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, left, responds to questions from the media at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. Also in photo is National Security Minister Edmund Dillion.

Criminal elements have been intercepting State resources directed to needy communities, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said at a press conference yesterday.

“I would not be fooling you or myself to say that is not happening in some areas and some instances,”Rowley said in response to questions on how Government intends to deal with State contracts being awarded to community leaders, which in turn empower and enrich them and lead to more criminal activity.

The issue, Rowley said, has to be dealt with to ensure that communities are supplied with relief they require.

Last year, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) awarded a contract to Sea Lots community leader Cedric Burke for the Bon Air South housing project. Burke is one of the contractors involved in building 60 town houses projected to cost $48 million.

Burke’s uninvited attendance to the swearing-in ceremony of Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald in July led to her firing as Public Utilities Minister days after her reappointment to a Cabinet post by Rowley.

In 2013, the HDC had also dismissed community activist Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriquez’s role as either a contractor or sub-contractor on a state project.

Yesterday, Rowley said some communities depend heavily on Government’s intervention and if the criminal element is allowed to benefit from it instead, those who truly need it will be denied.

He said the Government has to simply keep reviewing its allocation process and try to ensure that they help those in need to “minimise or eliminate, if possible, that kind of development.”

Admitting criminality gets in the way of the State’s allocation and the lawful recipient, Rowley said, “It would be a mistake indeed in communities to support and strengthen the criminal element by demanding state help if that state help is only to come to them... to criminal local empires. This only gets worse and creates more hardship for communities.”

... defends Couva statement

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday defended his refusal to address the Beetham Gardens protest during a function on Thursday, saying what was portrayed was in fact not what occurred.

Rowley was approached at the opening of the Point Lisas Business Park in Couva on Thursday, hours after the Beetham residents blocked the roadway, threw missiles at motorists and robbed them, causing panic along the Beetham Highway.

But his response then was: “Where are you standing? In Couva, well don’t ask me about Beetham. I am here to talk about Couva.”

In defending his position yesterday, however, Rowley said he was in the middle of a conversation with three people in Couva “when someone unknown to me…without identifying herself stuck a microphone in my face, in the middle of a sentence, to ask me for an interview on a subject.”

At that moment, Rowley said he was not prepared to address the issue and the reporter would not take a quiet gesture.

In his way, Rowley said that was not how things are done since he has been most accessible to the media and does not shy away from questions.

“What I expect is a little bit of good manners and a little bit of consideration in situations like that. That is simply what happened. I simply said I am in Couva dealing with the issue in Couva. I don’t know what the problem is from there.”

But T&T Guardian journalist Radhica De Silva shared a different story after hearing the PM’s account, saying she was never discourteous to Rowley. She said the PM was greeting people at the function and came over to her and shook her hand. De Silva said Rowley did not immediately recognise her and perhaps thought she was from the business community, but she soon identified herself and sought to get a comment on the Beetham issue.

“I identified myself to him as Radhica from the Guardian and told him I wanted to ask some questions. I was very courteous. He never indicated that he was not taking any questions and I asked him about Beetham first and that was the response he gave.”

De Silva said when the PM responded in this fashion on the Beetham incident, she then directed questions about Couva, but Rowley also did not answer those.

“At no time did I stick a tape recorder in Rowley’s face,” De Silva insisted.