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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Mystery church

WE were most disappointed at Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s silence over the controversial church that Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner alleged is being built by the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) in the Heights of Guanapo.

Last Friday in the House of Representatives, Warner made his startling claim which raises crucial questions over the alleged use of public resources for a private venture. He held up a photograph of the construction site, which is reportedly manned by Chinese labourers.

Warner raised the spectre of several improper practices including the possibility that a private church is being built on State lands, is using a contractor acquired in a Government-to-Government contract, and is benefitting from unknown financing. Warner later alleged to reporters that TTEC had been instructed to supply an electrical connection to the church. Warner three times offered to give way to Mr Manning whom he invited to tell what, if anything, he knew of the church, but despite this repeated prompting, Manning stayed silently seated.

Manning’s silence sent very bad signals to the national community who would expect that if he has no knowledge nor vested interest of the church, he would have said so immediately. Conversely the fact that after three promptings, he chose to stay silent, would largely suggest in the minds of many viewers that he is not in a position to deny Warner’s allusions of Manning’s involvement/knowledge in some aspect of the church.

Again, we say Manning should either have just come out and denied the allegations (if they are false), or simply explained what he knew (if they are at least partially true). He did neither.

Further, when Manning spoke in the House debate later, he failed to use the opportunity to clear the air. In fact, in our view his utterances only cast an even darker cloud over his own head.

He vaguely spoke of the biblical “Tree of Good and Evil,” and alleged that Warner was familiar with a “truth, untruth, truth” style of operating. Lamentably, Manning went on to repeat the “monkey on the back” slur that had been used against Mr Warner in the recent UNC internal election campaign, and also told a children’s story where the villain is a monkey.

Manning also made an allegation against UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissesar about allegedly buying a shop in dubious circumstances, a charge she flatly denied. These personal attacks on Mr Warner and Mrs Persad-Bissessar are not just unparliamentary, but were made by Manning at a time when he should instead have been enlightening the population about what if anything he knew of the mysterious church.

It is a very serious issue because it comes after the Uff Commission of Inquiry has unearthed huge apparent squandermania and alleged corruption in State expenditure, which many observers believe the Government is now asking the taxpayer to foot through the Property Tax. Is this church now more of the same, many observers will be asking?

Yesterday’s media reported that so far no-one has admitted any knowledge of who is building the church. Udecott — which oversees the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) — denied knowledge of the church. A woman said to be a spiritual advisor has also vehemently denied any knowledge of the project.

The Ministry of Planning (along with the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation), must say whether the proper permissions have been given by their Town and Country Planning Department. As line Ministry for Udecott, which in turn oversees the SCG, they must also explain how SCG workers, if at all, have found themselves working on a private church.

So what is the truth? A church can’t build itself. The answer cannot be difficult to find. Someone must know and we hope that some light would soon be shed on this matter.

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