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Rowley: We stand by Manning

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says the People’s National Movement (PNM) is standing by former prime minister Patrick Manning’s claim about the construction of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s private residence in south Trinidad. Speaking in Parliament last Friday, Manning raised questions about the funding for the project and called on Persad-Bissessar to produce documents to show the property had all the required approvals. He said the property was built at a cost of $150 million. Persad-Bissessar has since denied that claim and maintained that all was above board with the project.

Asked to comment on the matter during a news conference at his Charles Street, Port-of-Spain  office yesterday, Rowley declared: “We stand by our Member of Parliament, assuming that he is responsible and well informed. “Mr Manning does not stand alone, Mr Manning is a PNM MP and therefore, if he is taking a position in the Parliament, until it has been shown that he has been wrong, we are not taking a position on it.” Rowley noted that “all our MPs are expected to be responsible when they take the floor in the Parliament.”

Rowley said the present situation reminded him of a similar situation years ago, when Persad-Bissessar (as an Opposition MP) supported claims of wrongdoing in the Landate project at Mason Hall, Tobago, by then Chief Whip Ganga Singh. Landate was a private housing project owned by Dr Rowley’s wife, Sharon. Rowley said he hoped Persad-Bissessar now understood how he felt over unfounded claims of wrongdoing against him. “I hope she understands now what it feels like to be accused unjustly,” he added. Rowley said he was subjected to a series of investigations and was treated as a criminal.

Rowley said at that time House Speaker, Wade Mark (then Leader of Opposition Business in the Upper House) led a walkout of the chamber in protest of his (Rowley’s) presence. Rowley later reiterated his call for citizens to deal with the institutions of State and not individuals. He said that was the only way for the nation to advance. “If we run this country on personalities we are never going to build the independent democracy that we are trying to build,” he added.

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