The Government having wasted over $120 million by purchasing the Galleon’s Passage binding itself to an unsuitable vessel to service the sea-bridge; have now admitted their failure by inviting bids for the supply of a high speed passenger/ vehicle vessel. PM Rowley by his own admission at his talk shop in Tobago, warned the small gathering that the Galleon’s Passage is not a fast ferry and citizens should not travel on the vessel if they are expecting speed. This announcement was a direct slap on the face of citizens as the Prime Minister has brazenly and without apology conceded that the Government has mismanaged and wasted millions of taxpayers’ dollars on a limping boat. The Government having found itself in this precarious position of acquiring an unsuitable vessel has now embarrassingly positioned itself of having to expend millions of taxpayers’ dollars to rent a boat for 2 years to join the Cabo Star and the TT Spirit.
Minister Sinanan while announcing that the crew for the Galleon’s Passage arrived in Trinidad and due to perform its trials to Tobago next week, failed to assure the travelers that the 150 safety deficiencies found on the vessel was rectified. He again failed to give any update on the multimillion-dollar retrofitting on the vessel that formed part of the deal in purchasing the Galleon’s Passage. This begs the question whether the Galleon’s Passage is being pushed on service to avert the impending collapse of the sea-bridge for political expediency at the expense of the safety of its passengers?
It is strange that the Government has not issued any public advertisement for the permanent acquisition of the two fast ferries which was announced by PM Rowley that the Government will acquire from Australia after his visit in May – but rather the Government invited bids for the temporary two-year charter of a passenger ferry.
This PNM Government has a proven and stained track-record of impropriety in the procurement of boats. PM Rowley is committing the citizens of this country to a multi-million-dollar loan without an iota of information on these vessels to be built in Australia.
The PM has not indicated the specifications of the vessel and on whose expert recommendation these Australian vessels are being acquired.
Even more interesting, these Australian vessels have been scheduled to be delivered mid-2020, it is uncertain whether the already wounded economy of Tobago will be able to withstand such a sustained attack for the next two years.
The Tobago economy will suffer further attacks as the lone cargo vessel, the Cabo Star is scheduled for dry-docking in September. The Prime Minister gave no comfort to the business community and those who are dependent on the Cabo Star of any alternate arrangements for transportation of their goods while the vessel is on dry-dock.
The continued mismanagement of the sea-bridge by this incompetent Rowley PNM Government will only serve to cause more suffering to Tobago’s development and its economy.
The Prime Minister admitted that there are issues with regards to communication by the Government. His assertions are clearly demonstrated in the manner in which information is being unfolded with regards to Sandals. It is incredulous to imagine that PM Rowley is committing the hard-working taxpayers of this country to a deal that they know nothing of. Having hand-picked Sandals without any proper procurement process he bold facedly revealed that while he was the Leader of the Opposition he was in talks with Sandals.
The Sandals model from its initial announcements that it will be responsible for its own construction has now morphed into a model where citizens will have to find themselves paying well over a billion dollars to construct a hotel for Sandals to manage. After PM Rowley met with the delegation from Sandals in Tobago yesterday, his announcements afterwards did not leave Trinidad and Tobago with any more information on this deal.
The Government continues to hide the terms as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding with Sandals. Further, the Government has failed to give any indication of whether an independent feasibility study was conducted to determine the economic benefits to Trinidad and Tobago. It seems PM Rowley is heedless and oblivious to the concerns raised by our neighboring CARICOM countries with their unpleasant dealings with Sandals.
PM Rowley must hold true to his oath of office and come clean on this Sandal’s deal. He must disclose to the citizens whether or not he has agreed to any tax concessions or other benefits with Sandals. The citizens of this country have a right to know the cost of this project and the potential benefits that must accrue to them, as the Government is intent on undertaking these mega, vanity projects while citizens suffer for basic necessities in Trinidad and Tobago. PM Rowley must explain why monies are being allocated to the Sandals project but not being allocated to improving basic health, repair of roads, construction of schools and flood alleviation.
This Rowley PNM Government has engaged in a series of secret and reckless deals which sends a clarion call for the full implementation of the procurement legislation to breathe some fairness and transparency in the expenditure of public money.
Senator Saddam Hosein