I read Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s late-night response to my call on him for transparency in the Darryl Smith scandal. I leave aside for the moment the conspicuous ad hominem attack on me that Prime Minister Rowley chose to make in the context of what is an urgent matter of great national importance.
Prime Minister Rowley describes, not for the first time, his own involvement in the scandal. He then proceeds to seek to silence me by his customary use of language that is not fitting for any Prime Minister to use. What is appalling in this particular case, is that he seeks, yet again, to justify his administration’s culture of silence.
His response is weak and vacuous, and it clearly shows that he is ready to defend the indefensible.
Trinidad and Tobago would recall that Prime Minister Rowley dragged his feet on this matter from its inception and even tried to demote Darryl Smith instead of dismissing him from the Government. He only acted after the Opposition and the public put intense pressure on him to do the right thing. The committee was set up in 2018 to investigate this matter and the Government and Prime Minister Rowley surely thought it would go away quietly.
I stand by the action taken by the Government I led, to release to the public information on a matter of national importance. As the Privy Council reminded the Government in forthright terms earlier this year in the Malcolm Jones FOIA application, it is always necessary to balance the rights of the individual with the interest of the State.
Prime Minister Rowley has chosen the well-trodden road of an ad hominem attack in an attempt yet again to keep away from answering the questions surrounding this ugly affair. Yet again, he has failed to give any reason to the population as to what his personal attorney was engaged in when he got himself involved in this matter.
I am not afraid of Prime Minister Rowley, and like many of our citizens, I demand answers to this mess of his own creation.
I am heartened only to see that Prime Minister Rowley has now apparently reversed his ill-thought-out, public and ill-advised stance to have nothing further to say on the urgent matter.
The Government is duty-bound to account to the people of Trinidad and Tobago but instead of doing that Prime Minister Rowley has tried to deflect, distract and dance around this very serious matter. As more information comes to the forefront it shows clearly why Prime Minister Rowley wanted to bury the issue, it shows clearly that there was a high-level cover-up.
This matter goes to the heart of the question “who will guard the guards?” As citizens, we now know, that Prime Minister Rowley is willing to use State power to protect his friends, in this case, Mr Smith. As the Prime Minister seeks to point fingers, my record remains clear – when it comes to the public interest I acted swiftly and decisively. Members of my Government were asked to clear their names. The Rowley administration, however, has no such transparency.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago must hold this Government to account. Transparency and accountability are not optional parts of good governance, they are essential. This administration has, on several occasions, moved to withhold information from the public.
Prime Minister Rowley has demonstrated that he does not stand for accountability, as it is his Government that tried to weaken the Freedom of Information Act, which they only withdrew after strong opposition. It is also his administration that has dragged its feet on full implementation of the Procurement legislation.
Prime Minister Rowley has many questions to answer and no amount of intimidation, grand charging and bullying tactics would stop me from fighting for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.