Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rowley: Is it blackmail?

...Opposition Leader questions why PM ‘covering up’ for Warner


‘Prime Minister afraid’: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley addresses a news conference yesterday at his Charles Street, Port of Spain, office. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Mark Fraser

Is it a measure of blackmail?

This question was asked yesterday by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in seeking to explain Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s failure to take action against National Security Minister Jack Warner.

Speaking yesterday at a news conference at his Port of Spain office, Rowley said this was the same Prime Minister who (as Opposition Leader) was one of those who led the charge against former prime minister Patrick Manning for failing to act against former Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd (UDeCOTT) chairman Calder Hart, and who was able to fire Collin Partap “within hours” of his alleged refusal to take a breathalyser test (“even while he was protesting his innocence”).

But now she was “brakesing” and “covering up” for Warner, talking about her commitment to the rule of law and the presumption of innocence, he said. He added that the yardstick (used with Hart and Partap) had changed in her dealings with Warner.

Quoting from newspaper articles, Rowley said in April 2010 Warner had called on Manning to resign for his failure to act against Hart notwithstanding the fact that he (Manning) was aware Hart was the subject of a possible criminal investigation.

But now this Prime Minister (Persad-Bissessar) was “seeking to raise the Titanic to sail to a foreign port to get a letter” before taking any decision, he said.

Rowley said the Prime Minister could not even tell the country her National Security Minister has told her categorically “within the minute” he is not involved in any of the matters before the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and he is not the subject of any investigation.

“The minister is not in a position to ask his son, ‘What are they (US investigators) talking to you about? What are we involved in? What are they interested in?’ This conversation does not take place between the minister and his son (‘and business partner’)... So the minister is not in a position to tell the Prime Minister what his son and himself are facing with respect to what is being published (in the media)... so that they (the Government) can continue business as usual because this critical information is not available to the Prime Minister...

“If that is the position of the minister in relating to the Prime Minister, that alone is grounds for the Prime Minister to ask him to leave the Cabinet, and if he doesn’t leave, then you fire him,” Rowley said.

Rowley said the people of this country must know they have a Prime Minister who is not free to act to protect the public interest.

He said no member of Cabinet in Warner’s position could afford to take the position and say, “I ain’t going nowhere.”

“What all this says [is] that the Prime Minister is not free to act to protect the Cabinet, the Government and the country,” Rowley said, adding: “The Prime Minister is afraid to touch the Minister of National Security, not only in this matter but in other situations as well, and has set out whenever they are exposed to create all kinds of explanations as to why they (she) cannot act.”

Noting that rumours about Warner’s sons had been around since January, Rowley said it was only when there was a Reuters report late last month that the Prime Minister said she instructed the Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney General to get confirmation.

He said “even before this instruction was carried out” the usually “hyperactive” Attorney General told the media the Government had “exhausted” all diplomatic channels to get information.

He said the Attorney General stated further that when the facts are determined, the Government would make a deliberation on the matter.