Rowley spoke off the cuff for just over 20 minutes and began in a solemn tone saying he had two concerns with the May 24 general election–that the PNM could lose and the People’s Partnership could win. Rowley did not skirt his concerns with the leadership of the party, the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) and the need for systems to be implemented to deal with corruption in the state sector.
“I represent the PNM. I am one of 41 PNM candidates. Our party is not a perfect party. No political party is perfect. A political party is not about who like who. It is not about individuals. I am sure you all are very clear on that fact. I have serious issues about my party’s leadership,” Rowley said alluding to the tensions between himself and Manning. The strained relationship between the two has been the topic of several advertisements by the opposition People’s Partnership.
However, Rowley sought to defend the party as an institution separate from whatever disagreements members had.
He said, “That is not the PNM. The PNM is about the fundamental issues and policies that are pursued in your interests.” He told the scores of supporters in attendance that when they went to vote they should focus on “not who like who” but the policies. Rowley also said, “We have to ensure that we separate the issues of the PNM as an institution and office holders.”
He said it was “normal” for there to be disagreements with government policies as there were different options available. He said the government spent a lot of money implementing its policies and there were “always a lot of people trying to get their hands on government money that they do not deserve”.
Rowley then referred to the “lock joint project”, the Piarco Airport scandal under the UNC and Udecott. He did not call any names but Rowley said the police were talking to someone from Udecott and the Commission of Inquiry into Udecott. “I told you that managers must face criminal investigation because their role might not have been acceptable.”
Rowley then put out a question to the crowd asking, “Do you agree corruption is a people thing and you must deal with it in a certain way?” The crowd shouted, “Yes!”
He said systems should be in place to ensure corruption was prevented.
In a direct reference to criticism by Minister of Planning and Development Dr Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde that former Udeoctt executive chairman Calder Hart had been “hounded” from office, Rowley said there should be no apology.
He said Government has to protect itself and the public interest from “scoundrels who will thief their money”. “And when they thief the money, no one should tell you, PNM and otherwise that you should apologise and feel ashamed from hounding them from office.”
Rowley also said while the Opposition has been asking voters to vote for them because the PNM has corruption, he defended the party saying those issues have been dealt with and will be dealt with.
He warned PNM supporters to be wary of the Opposition which was making promises while at the same time saying that the Treasury was empty. He said this was to put the public on notice that when they got into office they will not be able to implement their promises. Rowley warned that the CEPEP programme as well as the Government’s housing plan could be under threat under the People’s Partnership as it viewed the PNM’s support programmes as “unacceptable freeness”.
He told supporters they had an interest in ensuring the country was properly run and should support policies and programmes, “not individuals you like and don’t like”. He advised them to vote for the PNM. After he completed his address Rowley took his place at the head table without shaking Manning’s hand.