Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Questions Mr Jack must answer


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In quickly jumping to the defence of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack, UNC chairman Jack Warner was not so nimble. "What is the crime in somebody building a house? I don't know if by chance the contractor is the person who allegedly did work on the Prime Minister's house but, if it is, then so what?" said Mr Warner.

But nobody has asserted that it is a crime to either build a house or to use Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar's contractor to do so. So Mr Warner has merely set up a straw man to knock down. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar employed a similar strategy when asked about the issue, noting that allegations had also been made about the construction of her own house. Of course, the difference is that Mrs Persad-Bissessar gave a credible explanation, which is why said allegations have been dismissed in the public mind.

In Mr Jack's case, however, his continual evasiveness about how he was able to afford his multi-million-dollar house causes public suspicions to grow, with citizens naturally wondering why he is not providing proof about how he hit this jackpot. As an investigative report in the last Sunday Express revealed, Casa Contractors, which shares the same trading address as Super Industrial Services (SIS), did work on Mr Jack's house but, when he was first asked how he was able to build his home without even taking out a mortgage, Mr Jack said that his brother's construction firm did the building. No mention was made of the Trinidad-based company which, it turns out, also owns another company that employs Mr Jack as a project manager at a $35,000 monthly salary the main source of funding, he says, for his new house. His explanation simply boiled down to him being a jack of all trades.

Far from giving Jack his jacket, however, a reasonable person would conclude that there is something untoward, even if there is nothing illegal, about his construction arrangements. It is either that Mr Jack paid SIS proper market fees for their work or that the firm jacked down their price. In the former case, case, the original question of how Mr Jack was able to afford his house still remains. In the latter case, the question arises as to why the SIS would do such a huge favour for the TOP leader.

This is the crux of the matter. If Mr Jack received assistance to build his home, even from a private company and not from public funds, then citizens must query what is expected in return from a man bidding to be chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly.

Does Mr Jack have answers?