Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis believes some citizens are making “a mountain out of a nothing” with regard to him accepting an invitation to Guadeloupe in 2018 which has been shrouded in controversy.
He made the statement to Guardian Media yesterday during the Karukera One Love festival at Maracas Bay which he attended.
Since last Thursday, the fete attracted widespread attention following the construction of the stage in the sea which on Monday was shifted to the shoreline after there was a wave of complaints on social media about the safety of patrons.
Within hours of the stage being relocated, an article in the T&T Guardian surfaced, stating there appeared to be a growing rift between agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat and Francis over the erection of the stage on the seabed.
The article further stated that there was evidence that the Government knew two years ago about the plan to hold the concert in T&T with the erection of the stage in the sea and approved Francis’ visit to Guadeloupe on a “diplomatic mission” at the invitation by promoters of Karukera One Love Music Festival.
At Thursday’s post Cabinet media briefing Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley admitted that his Government “mishandled” the situation and “we let our guard down” by allowing Francis to accept an invitation to Guadeloupe.
Yesterday Francis said as far as he was concerned there had not been any controversy involving his trip.
He said the PM pointed out that there was a convention in the People’s National Movement and Government that ministers should not accept trips that are not from State agencies or international bodies “and the Cabinet may have mismanaged it.”
He said somehow the media interpreted that to mean that he should not have accepted the trip.
Francis made it clear that Government ministers do not select trips.
“For me to leave the country Cabinet has to agree. So any minister sent anywhere is a Cabinet decision and not a personal decision or personal acceptance.”
He said he was not a party to any of this.
Francis said the PM has cleared up everything there needs to know and “there is nothing I could say after that.”
Asked if this was a learning experience for the Government, Francis said no.
“There was always an established policy and we may have stepped slightly away from that. So I don’t think there is any new learning here. I think Cabinet would ensure that we stand by precedent in the future.”
He said what people should understand as a nation was that we needed to be more forward-thinking.
Francis said the event on the beach was hinged on bringing investments, using T&T’s artistes and service providers and utilising a Guadeloupean product.
“This is the kind of thing we have to do for our economies to evolve.”
Francis insisted he was not invited by the promoters but the Mayor of Guadeloupe.