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The newest vessel in the national fleet of ferries, the APT James.

Gail Alexander

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called out Government on an inspection report regarding the new Tobago ferry APT James which states the vessel has six deficiencies, including missing fire safety equipment.

She also wants answers on whether eight people returned home with the Prime Minister’s daughter for Christmas and why the National Security Ministry’s Permanent Secretary got exemptions to leave and return to T&T last month.

Persad-Bissessar spoke at last night’s UNC meeting to launch the party’s campaign for the January 25 by-election.

She said the APT James which cost half a billion dollars is en route to T&T but has to stop at various location and has to be inspected.

“When the vessel was in Malta and gone through inspections, we expected a brand-new half-a-billion-dollar vessel would have been free from any deficiencies.”

“I have in my possession a copy of an inspection document from Malta, which states that on inspection not one or two deficiencies were identified but a total of six deficiencies,” she said.

“Defects range from a lack of proper certification and documents to missing fire safety equipment and a lack of proper structural access points to vital areas of the ship. It was even discovered the electronic charts that assist the navigation of the vessel was outdated and did not conform to current maritime codes.”

The report showed the emergency system muster list was incomplete and fire detection/alarm system missing.

“The fact these deficiencies exist at all in what is supposed to be a brand-new ferry demonstrates the lack of attention to detail that went into preparing the ship before it was sent to T&T. This was a Government-to-Government arrangement which is no longer subject to the Procurement law. They can make these big purchases without any oversight.”

Persad-Bissessar said while people remain stranded outside of T&T, PNM “friends and family” were being given exemptions to enter and leave. She claimed the National Security’s Permanent Secretary was granted exemption to leave T&T on December 19 and another to return December 30.

“Why did he leave? No government business was being done outside. Everyone’s using Zoom and webinars.”

Persad- Bissessar alleged Security Minister Stuart Young “lied” when he made statements on exemptions including about “first come first served” basis.

“How did Miss Rowley who applied for an exemption in November get it in November when people were applying and begging March, April, May…October, November? He said ‘first come, first served’ but you have people jumping the queue,” she alleged.

“Is it true Miss Rowley when granted exemption, did she also bring eight friends with her? Who are they? Are they nationals? Were they in the queue? Did they come in at the same time?”

She said Attorney General Faris Al Rawi’s son was also granted exemption to leave and return.

“What is your policy? You have stranded people out there man!”

She said attorneys are looking at the ministry’s policy in granting exemptions and will also be challenging allocations made to regional corporations claiming there is inequity there.

Persad-Bissessar said another person from the Procurement board had either resigned or is about to, apart from deputy chairman James Chang-Kit.

“I hail Mr Chang-Kit. He’s a true patriot.”

She said resignations weren’t enough and banding together is needed.

“I propose UNC join with other groups and have roundtable or webinar discussions on this procurement legislation. We will not let it go! We will not give you support in the Parliament. You could cry and gnash your teeth as much as you want, we will isolate you!”

Persad-Bissessar slammed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement that the worst is behind T&T.

“Are you living in T&T? Prime Minister you lie,” she said.