He made the announcement at the first meeting of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) since General Election 2015, at Piggott’s Corner, Belmont, last Friday night. He also used the occasion to vow to reverse the former regime’s alleged “Philistine” neglect of the country’s heritage as he vowed to upkeep buildings such as the Red House.
Saying most persons in this country had been oblivious to the fact that Cazabon paintings were recently under the hammer at two recent auctions in London, Dr Rowley said he had got Cabinet to agree to buy them. “Those paintings are securely placed in Trinidad and Tobago today,” he assured.
Saying the second auction had taken place recently at Christie’s Auction House in London, he said, “Trinidad and Tobago has brought back its heritage of those Cazabon paintings”. Saying that another auction of Cazabon paintings will be held next week in London, he signalled an intent to purchase by declaring that if a people cannot defend their cultural heritage, they are not worthy of nationhood.
He said the paintings will all be put on display for the general public next Independence Day, as he alluded to cultural neglect by the former regime and vowed, “This Philistine behaviour is going to stop”.
The Christie’s website listed 12 Cazabon paintings sold last Thursday (October 29), and the price each fetched, the total cost being 305,000 pounds sterling or over $3 million.
Saying his condensation of the number of Government Ministries from 33 to 22 or maybe 23 will save $44 million that would otherwise have been spent on Ministers, he said such savings could supply the $20 million Budget allocation to repair President’s House. He lamented the former People’s Partnership (PP) government’s neglect of that building over five years since its collapse in 2010 and the Red House, declaring, “Under my stewardship those buildings will be fixed, because it’s a national disgrace”.
He added, “We’ll have to eat a little less, drink a little less and waste a little less, but we have to make sure those buildings will be there for our children and our children’s children”.
He revealed that by year-end he will move in to the Prime Minister’s Residence, although saying he prefers his own bed in Glencoe. He vowed to cut the cost of running that building from $17 million last year under the PP, to $9 million. Dr Rowley addressed the earnings from the energy sector. “The energy sector is serious, the loses are large and the future requires serious intervention by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.” He said the new Standing Committee on Energy had first met last Wednesday, to deal with “very serious realities”.
He said, “The gas shortage is no joke to be solved in one or two years”. He said the country may have to import hydrocarbons (oil and/or gas). He expects to meet the heads of British Gas (BG) and British Petroleum in London, in a stop-over when he attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta at the end of November. He said travel must not be a junket, as he asked supporters aloud if the country had benefitted from $250 million spent in travel by the former regime including $30 million by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? He promised to rein in the travel costs of “all kinds of self-appointed officials” travelling at public expense.
He vowed to soon meet Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro, on the heels of a large TT delegation visiting Venezuela last week to do serious business.
Also on foreign cooperation, Dr Rowley said a team of experts from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) is now in TT to do a review of the need for a mass transit system, the outcome of which will be taken to the general public for consultation towards making a decision.
He bemoaned that many State Enterprises act as “independent republics” that do not even report to Parliament as is required and which are not stymied from borrowing due to improperly- kept account books. “That has to stop and that has to change. We just can’t go on that way,” he declared, saying the whole State Enterprise Sector is now up for review by a new Committee on Infrastructure Lamenting hundreds of vehicles leased by State companies such as Udecott which are used dubiously such as for trips to Maracas Beach, he said soon all State vehicles will bear the insignia of their Ministry/State Enterprise.
“So the public will be the eyes and ears with what’s happening to those vehicles”.
Dr Rowley vowed to try to renew links with Ghana to help them exploit their energy reserves, an initiative begun under the old People’s National Movement regime but which lapsed under the PP.
“I’ll travel to Ghana next year to see what we can rekindle.” He will also visit Equatorial Guinea to explore similar links.
Dr Rowley criticised the provision of Coast Guard vessels to the former PP regime that were not paid for, asking what kind of company does that? “You are asking me to pay for boats that the (PP) government ‘trust’ (that is, bought on trust)?”.
Of the “twelve strange-looking vessels”, he scoffed, “I have never seen so much black smoke”.
He also berated the PP government’s $228 million purchase of a vessel from China that he chided is totally unarmed “without even a slingshot on it”.
Dr Rowley vowed to complete PNM projects such as the Tarouba Stadium, Carenage Fishing Complex, Diego Martin Sports Centre, Laventille Community Centre, “the unfinished business of the Aluminium smelter” and the International Financial Centre (for which the Chinese will be invited to help). He said he’d have to sort out two unfinished projects of the former regime — the Point Fortin Highway and the Beetham Wastewater Plant.
“Stand by to drink the Beetham water that you paid half a billion dollars for,” he said, revealing that industrial forms don’t want the water.
Again saying he’ll not hold any witchhunt against any wrongdoers in the former regime, he added that the Government won’t turn a blind eye to wrongdoing but would hand over any evidence to the competent authorities via the Office of the Attorney General