OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley has written the Integrity Commission (IC), calling for an investigation into what he claims are plans by the People’s Partnership Government to use the State-funded food card programme as political campaigning in the next general election.
The letter, dated August 5, was sent to the registrar of the Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago.
Rowley said on February 13, Cabinet approved the Cabinet note entitled “The Extension of the Targeted Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (TCCTP) and the contracts positions therein, the full rebranding and implementation of the RISE UP Conditional Component of the Programme (Rights of Individuals to Social and Economic Security—Universal Prosperity)”.
“The Cabinet approval specifically noted that the rebranding of the TCCTP system to ‘RISE UP’ is to be ‘undertaken via an aggressive marketing campaign in the third quarter of fiscal 2014’, and that the employment of persons appointed on contract to effect the implementation and administration of the programme stand ‘estimated in the sum of $18,766,800 per annum as detailed in the appendix to the note,” Rowley stated in his letter.
He said “it is well known” the United National Congress (UNC), in the 2010 general election, the two by-elections in Chaguanas West and St Joseph, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election and the local government election, “ran a highly publicised and well-supported campaign” under slogans including “We Will Rise”.
“These sustained campaigns post the general elections of 2010 saw senior members of the Government and, in particular, the Honourable Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, imploring the electorate at several public meetings and in paid advertisements in the media to ‘Rise Up’ and support the UNC/People’s Partnership,” the letter stated.
Rowley said the decision of the Cabinet commits to rebranding “a very well-known product” of the Ministry of the People and Social Development to a “well-known
slogan” of the UNC-led coalition Government.
“It is against this background, and all that is in the public domain that I now call upon the commission to cause an investigation to be conducted, pursuant to its powers under Part V of the Integrity in Public Life Act, to determine whether the decisions embodied in the said Cabinet minute and/or accompanying activities and/or stated intentions are contrary to the letter and spirit of the act,” Rowley’s letter stated.