Former Public Utilities minister Robert Le Hunte says he has no regrets over his resignation from Cabinet and has no rift with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
And despite stunning his colleagues with the move over the weekend, Le Hunte says he will remain committed to the People’s National Movement (PNM) since they are his family.
“So regrets, I don’t have regrets,” Le Hunte told the T&T Guardian, saying people will judge him on his performance and values.
Asked if a rift between himself and Rowley had led to his resignation, Le Hunte put the matter to rest, stating categorically, “There is no tension on my side with regards to the Prime Minister.”
It was reported that Le Hunte resigned because Cabinet’s would not approve his proposal of a $1.5 billion metering system for WASA customers.
To this, he said, “I note the recent speculative reports based on anonymous sources which attempt to give an account of what transpired in Cabinet. My integrity and professionalism dictates that I do not breach the sanctity of Cabinet and I will do so under no circumstances. I did not achieve the strides made in my professional career by making outrageous proposals and displaying public insubordination.”
Le Hunte, however, thanked Rowley for providing him with countless opportunities to grow and serve T&T.
“The Prime Minister has stood by me a number of times when other people may not have,” he said.
He said following his resignation, he was touched by words of encouragement from people he had helped during his tenure.
“Their gratitude is sufficient for me to feel justified that I have done the work. That is all I ever wanted. My expectation was to serve people and I have done that,” Le Hunte said, adding he has always been a professional.
“As a professional, I did what I did. If you don’t stand for something you would stand for nothing. I have stood for something and I have offered my letter of resignation to the Prime Minister, which he accepted.”
He said his resignation required careful thought and consultation with God.
“If you feel that you have a policy position that is not the position, then I think you need to offer your resignation to the Prime Minister, which is what I did. I always do what I feel is right and proper.”
In his resignation letter to Rowley, which was leaked on social media unknown him, Le Hunte said his interpretation of the PM’s last instructions was to work with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on developing a comprehensive plan to bring a 24/7 water supply to T&T within the shortest possible time and move away from the dependency on desalinated water.
Le Hunte said that plan was completed through a lot of hard work done by the IDB, ministry and himself, which led to a note being laid before Cabinet.
“Clearly, there appears to be a conflict in policy that led to me being asked to withdraw the note. I therefore respectfully request further clarification before advising the IDB,” the letter stated.
He told the PM there were a number of issues he “neither comprehend nor agree with. Yet I fully understand the principle of collective responsibility.”
Having witnessed the hardships the population has been experiencing for water, Le Hunte told Rowley the matter was close to his heart.
“It is then left for me to conclude that the instructions given by you without appropriate discussion suggest a loss of confidence by you in me,” Le Hunte said in his letter.
Asked yesterday about his lack of confidence claim to the PM, Le Hunte said that was the position he took.
Despite facing blows from the public for WASA’s unreliable service, Le Hunte said and the authority’s management team worked tirelessly to improve its water supply by rolling out several measures.
As for the future of WASA, Le Hunte said it “all depends on the Prime Minister what he does and what is the Government’s position.”
Pressed on what happened in Cabinet last Thursday, Le Hunte refused to respond to speculative reports.
“If people choose to leak information as to what happened in Cabinet, that is their prerogative. I can’t stand in their shoes…I can only stand in mine.
“My professional integrity and professionalism does not allow me to do things like that. I will not go down that road. I will not breach that confidentiality. That will go against my integrity.”
Since his appointment in 2017, Le Hunte said he has never breached Cabinet’s trust.
“I can’t be like that. I have never done it and will never do it even when it is beneficial to me,” he said, adding we should all be held to higher standards.
Le Hunte said anyone can ask his former employers about his work ethics and his goal for WASA.
“I was very passionate about providing water to the people in spite of constraints under which I worked. But I am not going to tell you whether or not that was the conversation (at Cabinet).”
He also refused to say if there was a clash among Cabinet members over the recommendations from the Roadmap to Recovery committee, of which he was a vice-chairman.
Although he is no longer on the committee, Le Hunte said he will still assist in whatever way he can.
“I am confident that the members, who are all professionals, will continue to do their work and deliver to the Prime Minister the final report next month. This is just a little bump in the road.”
Le Hunte also refused to say if there was dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister’s handling of the Paria Trading Company fuel sale to Aruba that may have exposed the country to US sanctions.
Asked if he was antagonised or attacked by his Cabinet colleagues, Le Hunte said he has always maintained a harmonious relationship with them.
“From my perspective, I do not have any animosity to any colleague that I worked with. I had no conflict with anyone. I dealt with all my colleagues upfront. I treated people with respect,” he said.
He also does not believe staying on PNM vice-chairman would put him in an awkward position and trigger tensions within the party, noting he has served the party in different capacities for 31 years.
As for his next move, Le Hunte said there are options but it was too early to tell.
From yesterday, however, Le Hunte said he would spend some time with his wife, who has been his pillar of strength.