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Sunday 25 March 2018

Rowley: I was target of a hit

OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said a “hit” was once placed on his life for his exposure of corruption in the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) in his Diego Martin West constituency when he was Housing Minister.

His revelation came as he led the Opposition response on a bill to add $3.8 billion to the 2014 Budget, in the Lower House at Tower D, Port-of-Spain.

He said Special Branch police officers had visited him twice in 2005 or 2006 to tell him of the hit, even showing him a photo of the hit-man.

“For months I had to be responding to that,” he revealed. Rowley said he had not even told his wife, attorney-at-law Sharon Rowley, to spare her the worry.

He said he doesn’t take such things lightly, and made a passing reference to the Ministry of Sport’s Life Sport Programme which he had recently alleged was linked to the assassination of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal. Otherwise he said he had heard that programme was funded variously at $130 million or $200 million, even as he said it was not stated where those funds had come from.

Rowley then alleged that since last April the Government had spent $50 million on a cargo ferry, the Galicia, brought to TT to service the Tobago route but parked up idle as it could not fit into a berth in Trinidad. Some US$1.5 million per month is being spent on the boat that can’t be used until $51 million is spent to build a big enough berth. In reply later, Tourism Minister Steven Cadiz, said the works are being done such that the ferry would be working within ten days. Cadiz said the size of the boat — that can haul 50,000 tonnes compared to just 35,000 tonnes by the Warrior Spirit — will greatly assist the hard-pressed businesses and residents of Tobago. On the Finance Bill, saying the four main projects being funded by the Bill had been in train at the time of the Budget, Rowley alleged “a game is being played” with the figures.

He urged that the fact the PriceWaterhouseCoopers Report on the First Citizens Bank (FCB) Initial Public Offering (IPO) had been set by Finance Minister Larry Howai to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should not preclude Parliament from debating the report. Parliament is supreme and can stop a report being buried somewhere and left to die, Rowley said. He urged that Clico’s key assets such as its big block of shares in Angostura and Republic Bank should be sold in a properly-run IPO to the general public “from Charlotteville to Cedros”, without the faults of the FCB IPO. “We don’t want any surprises, and no sweetheart arrangements.” Rowley revealed the arbitration over Clico’s shares in a methanol company had been completed and that Government must now sell those shares. Howai rose and said the arbitration was ended last year, with a January 2014 deadline imposed for both parties to settle on a sale-price which they failed to do. The matter went back for arbitration last month, with both parties’ views to be mulled by the arbitrator who will give a decision by July. Rowley said the parties’ failure to agree means the arbitrator will set the price, with the “imminent sale” due to bring a significant inflow of foreign exchange to TT, but such one-off sales are not sustainable. He called for the Minister and the Central Bank Governor to explain the present difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange in TT.


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