FORMER national security minister Jack Warner yesterday said he had always heard of “Chinese Checkers”, but after learning about the planned purchase of a long-range vessel (LRV) for this country’s Coast Guard, he now knows there is something called “Chinese madness”.
According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar indicated to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard “needed two vessels to lock down this country’s borders, in light of the increase in arms and narco trafficking”.
Persad-Bissessar is currently on a State visit to China with a delegation from Trinidad and Tobago, including several Cabinet members.
“The Prime Minister said she was aware that China was building two LRVs and pleaded with Li Keqiang to sell one ‘in the shortest possible time’,” according to the release from the Office of the Prime Minister.
“National security remains the number one priority of my Government right now,” Persad-Bissessar told Li Keqiang, according to the release.
The purchase of the vessel is being questioned by the Opposition, however.
In 2007, the previous People’s National Movement (PNM) administration, of which Colm Imbert was a Cabinet member, signed a £150 million contract with a company called VT Shipbuilding to build and commission vessels to patrol local waters and provide naval protection and surveillance.
British defence manufacturer BAE Systems eventually acquired VT Shipbuilding in 2009.
In 2010, months after assuming office, the People’s Partnership government cancelled the contract, citing the vessels were not built according to specification.
Speaking to the Express in a telephone interview yesterday, Warner added his voice to the chorus slamming the purchase.
“I have heard about Chinese Checkers but I have never heard about Chinese madness, and what the prime minister is saying about purchasing a LRV has to be Chinese madness,” Warner said.
Chinese Checkers is a strategy board game.
“In the first case, in her delegation, there is not a single person there who has the capacity or ability to decide where those vessels are good for this country or not,” he said.
“But assuming they (the LRVs) are (suitable to this country’s conditions), when you want parts for them, where do you go? China? When you want to get people to repair them, what you going to have to do, get people to learn Chinese? What madness is that?” Warner said.
Warner said the planned purchase of the LRV was another “vaps” on the part of the People’s Partnership Government as the itinerary for Persad-Bissessar’s trip to China never included it.
“This has to be ludicrousness at its highest, but as I said before and I say again, these things happen when a Government moves by vaps, and it is vaps, vaps and more vaps,” Warner said.
“The Prime Minister never left here to buy a long-range vessel from China, that was not part of her mission, but having gone there, eat some chow mein, I guess that is what happens,” he said.