An elevator has been installed at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's to give Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar easier access to her accommodations at her official residence.
The elevator, intended for the Housing Development Corporation's (HDC) Victoria Keys apartments at Diego Martin, was installed at the PM's official residence a few weeks ago.
There is already one elevator, closer to the media room where the government hosts press conferences, at the massive multi-purpose facility at La Fantasie, St Ann's.
The elevator, acquired from RBP Lifts, is estimated to cost about $1 million.
It was installed a few weeks ago, under instructions from the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT), which manages the Diplomatic Centre.
UDeCOTT is chaired by Jearlean John, who is also the chief executive of the HDC.
The contractor of Victoria Keys said yesterday he was contracted to work under HDC and would not disclose any information.
He directed the Sunday Express to the project manager for that HDC project, Indar Outar.
A top UDeCOTT official said yesterday the HDC had the lift in storage to be installed in December at its housing complex.
"The lift was sitting there and HDC had no plans to install it until the end of the year," the Sunday Express was told.
The official dismissed concern about if an asset from the HDC could be used by another State company.
"The lift was in storage. The vendor was approached to use the lift for another project," was the explanation given. UDeCOTT will foot the bill for the elevator and another one will be ordered for the HDC project.
Questioned on what area of the Diplomatic Centre the lift was located, the official declined to say citing "security reasons".
"It's there. It's State property," the Sunday Express was told.
The rationale for the lift, the Sunday Express was told, followed the Prime Minster's health challenges and that of her husband Dr Gregory Bissessar who underwent heart surgery last year.
The new lift opens to a corridor leading to Persad-Bissessar's bedroom, the Sunday Express was told.
The Sunday Express learnt that accommodation for an elevator (a lift shaft) to the residential area of the Diplomatic Centre was part of the building when it was handed over to former prime minister Patrick Manning but it was not installed.
"The high capacity lift was designed to carry almost 15 passengers up some six storeys so it is considerably over-designed for her living area," an informed source explained.
During her election bid in 2010, Persad-Bissessar had said she would not occupy the PM's residence.
After she became Prime Minister, she had told reporters she offered the facility to President George Maxwell Richards after the roof of the President's house collapsed.
Richards declined the offer and Persad-Bissessar moved into the residence in June 2010.
In the intervening period between her successful election bid and moving into the residence, Persad-Bissessar had stayed with family friends, the Gopauls in Tunapuna which resulted in an investigation by the Integrity Commission.
She said the residence and Diplomatic Centre would be open to the people as is the custom in the United States with the White House.
While in Opposition, the former administration and Manning were heavily criticised for the residence and it was described as Manning's "emperor's palace".
In July 2010, former press secretary Garvin Nicholas had facilitated a press tour of the Centre which showcased the $3 million drapes, a hair salon, a fitness centre, a swimming pool and a chapel.
The Diplomatic Centre cost over $150 million and was constructed by Shanghai Construction Company in less than a year.