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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Anna-Lisa Paul

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has accused Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of hiding from the media as he attempts to evade serious questions relating to the governance of this country.

In a release Saturday, she expressed concerns over media reports that T&T had been warned by the US authorities that they could face sanctions if they moved to offer any assistance to five Iranian fuel tankers that were en route to Venezuela.

She said if claims relating to escalating tensions between the US, Venezuela and Iran were indeed true, Rowley “needs to tell the population exactly what are the potential consequences for T&T since we are virtually caught in the middle of this potentially dangerous shipment.”

Persad-Bissessar claimed Rowley “had apparently gone into hiding” following the refusal to host the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing last Thursday or to account during Friday’s Parliamentary session.

Meanwhile, reporters hoping to question the prime minister during the promised media briefing Saturday were told by government officials that nothing had been planned.

This, one week after Rowley announced officials would report to the nation three times per week as it related to the local handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During last week Saturday’s media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, the prime minister said, “As we communicate with you on a daily a basis, given the numbers we have been having and wanting to give some relief to the staff that have been working 20 hours or more per day, we would report to you now…not on a daily basis, but a little less frequently. We made a schedule out Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and we will come to you immediately if the circumstances change and warrant your immediate notification so no news would be good news and we will undertake to report on Monday, on Wednesday and Saturday going forward.”

Even though Rowley hosted two consecutive media briefings on May 9 and May 16 respectively–at which Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and other health officials were present–officials at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said no such briefing had been planned or cancelled by them Saturday.

One official said, “You cannot cancel what was never on.”

Communications Minister Donna Cox said, “There is no cancellation. A media conference was not scheduled for today.”

Dumas: It’s pure speculation

The former head of the public service, Reginald Dumas said it was “pure speculation” as to whether Rowley had indeed gone silent and was dodging the media.

He said while there may be issues Rowley do not wish to speak on just yet, the questions surrounding transparency and democracy still lingered.

Dumas said certain matters such as the tensions between T&T and the US, and their subsequent meeting on Friday, “had become too public.”

“These are matters that should be discussed quietly.”

Concerning this matter, he advised, “There should be a lowering of the noise.”

Ragoonath: Rowley continuing the trend on refusing to answer

Political analyst Bishnu Ragoonath said, “The Prime Minister has always had a perspective that if I have taken a decision, I am not going to explain myself or bow to any external pressures.”

He said Rowley’s behaviour and refusal to answer on certain issues was him simply, “continuing in that trend.”

La Guerre: There might be info still outstanding

Prof John La Guerre said although people had a right to be suspicious over the alleged silence, they had to also understand there might be information still outstanding as it related to the issues at hand.

James: PM must make himself available

Winford James said, “We must always wonder what is it that lies behind the actions on the part of the directorate.

“We need to have the Prime Minister,, who is the nation’s top executive, to make himself available as frequently as possible. He is the top public persona in T&T so we need to know.”