Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP today slammed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s decision to appoint a sole investigator to examine the circumstances surrounding the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2.
The Opposition Leader issued the following statement:
It is clear that the Prime Minister cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
For months the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been calling for the Government to come clean on the deal and they have refused. This ferry scandal has already been the subject of Freedom of Information Act requests, an Integrity Commission complaint and calls for the police to investigate.
We are not comforted by Rowley’s appointment of a one-man investigative team to investigate one of his Ministers and this matter. Rowley has effectively hand-selected an investigator to examine the hand-selected ferries to service the seabridge.
A number of questions arise from this development, including: does the sole investigator possess any legal authority to call for documents or persons? And what would be the basis of such authority?
Further, the Office of the Prime Minister indicated that the sole investigator would be supported by the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, which does not have investigative powers under the law.
This Prime Minister has shown that he cannot be trusted, and it appears that Rowley prefers to cloak his Ministers and the Port Authority Board’s actions in secrecy, rather than to make the facts known. Worse still, he is giving the investigator one month to investigate the matter.
In other matters, where the Prime Minister has suspected fraud or corruption he has been quick to appoint professional auditors and to make information available to them. What’s different this time? Why no professional auditor? Why no public hearings?
After the Prime Minister told the country that he was thinking of launching an investigation well over a month ago, he comes back with this – the appointment of a private citizen as sole investigator. This is an unprecedented and unparalleled approach to conducting investigations into alleged wrong doing.
It cannot be proper for a member of the business community who may depend on the government’s support and may also be a prime user of the sea bridge and other Port facilities, to be asked to conduct an independent inquiry into the operations of the said Port Authority and its relevant officials.
Mr Mouttet, who may have the best intentions in the world, begins his task in controversy and in an apparently compromised position.
Keith Rowley missed the boat a long time ago in dealing with the Tobago seabridge situation and now he has missed it again. This situation requires that there is no question of the independence of the investigator, especially in light of what we have all experienced over the past few months under the Rowley government.
Stakeholders and citizens have demanded full disclosure and transparency regarding the contracts and procurement of boats from Bridgemans. Anything less is unacceptable.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago deserve to know the truth about this deal, and those involved in any unlawful activity must be held accountable.
Dr Rowley must rescind his decision and immediately move to establish a Commission of Enquiry into the Tobago ferry fiasco.