Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says the only way investigations into ongoing fraud investigations at state entities will be concluded is if the United National Congress is kept out of government.
He made the conclusion during a public meeting at the Signal Hill Secondary School on Sunday night as he highlighted two cases where the former government is being investigated of fraudulent activity.
“You should know what happened to your money and who should be held accountable,” Rowley told supporters.
“Do you expect them to work with the government and conclude these investigations based on what they did with the Piarco Airport enquiry? Do you think that these people and anybody else they serve want to conclude the investigations?”
The Prime Minister read the contents of a Sunday Guardian report by Mark Bassant, which gave details on an alleged scheme by a prominent politician which resulted in $549 million being spent on an inflated road contract by the Estate Management and Business Development (EMBD) company six weeks before the general election in 2015.
The scope of works under the EMBD involved a series of road upgrade projects. According to police investigations, there were cases of over-inflation of prices, additional funding being sought for extra projects in some cases and claims for work which was not done.
According to the Prime Minister, cases similar to these drove his Government to secretly orchestrate the sudden change of the old 100-dollar note to polymer the new note.
“It had to be done in secret because had they known, those who had cash in the barrels and boxes, wherever they had it, had they known, they would have moved heaven and earth to get it into the banking system before time to close,” he said.
Rowley said as a result of this action by his Government, almost $500 million in old notes were never redeemed for exchange.
The Prime Minister also went on to detail a report from the Dutch police, where investigations are also ongoing surrounding the acquisition of 12 Damen vessels at a total cost of TT$1.358 billion in 2015.
He said while the Opposition has been leading the call to close the country’s borders, they are the ones who cancelled the vessels procured under the then Patrick Manning government when they assumed office.
“They had a lot to say – close the borders, close the borders after they cancelled the patrol vessels which are the tools for closing the borders and guns and women overrun the country from South America.”
Rowley asked the public to support the Government’s actions by letting the ongoing investigations into these probes come to closure, adding this could only happen if the PNM remains in office.
But in a response yesterday, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said a police investigation cannot be used as a PNM political tool in this election season.
“Instead of offering solutions to deal with the numerous socio-economic issues facing citizens that have emerged due to his poor leadership, Rowley is using the same tactic he employed in the 2015 General Election campaign with his Emailgate accusations, which were debunked and shown to be false,” Persad-Bissessar said in a statement.
“Rowley must be reminded that investigations currently underway remain a police matter and must be dealt with by the police. It is rather unethical, if not in total contravention of the separation of powers which bolsters our democracy, that the head of the political arm of the state would be seeking to utilise information from an independent arm of the State for political benefit.
“How can the Prime Minister be privy to such information, especially on the eve of an election? Clearly, the disclosure of such information is not being done in the public’s interest but being done in the interest of the PNM.”
Persad-Bissessar added, “We understand that the Prime Minister is losing support and is feeling the pressure of such, resulting in his ‘bullying attitude’ towards his opponents, but a police investigation cannot be used as a Balisier House political tool. The hard-working members of our TTPS and their work must be left off the PNM’s platforms.
“The recent allegations represent the fact that the Prime Minister has done nothing for this nation’s development in the last five years and is seeking to run a campaign like 2015, hoping to retain power on allegations, untruths and distractions. It is an insult to the suffering citizens of our nation, and is the latest example that Rowley is a leader who is incapable of leading a nation.”