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'Ex-official told me of Robinson's son'

By Anna Ramdass

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last night a former head of the Public Service, whom she did not name, advised her that former prime minister Arthur NR Robinson used his son as a travel assistant when he travelled on official business.

Speaking to the media at Piarco International Airport, shortly after her return from an official trip to Panama, Persad-Bissessar said her office had issued a statement on the matter on Tuesday, and she had nothing further to say.

That statement indicated a woman's needs were different to a man's and, as such the Prime Minister needed her sister Vidwatie Newton by her side when she travels to assist her personally in terms of diet and medication.

Persad-Bissessar said on Saturday, during Phagwa celebrations at the Tunapuna Hindu School, a precedent was already set for the State to pay for the travel expenses of her personal assistant as other leaders of the country carried family members with them on trips.

"Indeed, I am advised that former prime minister (Arthur NR) Robinson would take his son as his travel assistant," she said then.

On Friday, in Parliament, it was disclosed that taxpayers paid $233,600 to fund the expenses of Newton during an official trip to India in January. The Sunday Express reported that Newton accompanied the Prime Minister on official trips to Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia and London at the State's expense.

On Tuesday, in an exclusive Express report, former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas said when he worked with former prime minister Robinson, no monies were spent by the State for the travel expenses of the prime minister's son, David.

In the face of that denial, Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley called on Persad-Bissessar to apologise to Robinson.

Questioned yesterday on the accuracy of her statement that taxpayers funded the travel of Robinson's son during the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) administration (1986-1991), Persad-Bissessar responded: "I was so advised by a former head of the Public Service."

She did not identify the person who provided the information to her.

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