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Rowley’s anti-corruption rhetoric

The trinidad Guardian / The Prime Minister’s appearance before the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Monday was interesting to say the least. He was compelling and in command of the facts as he sought to demonstrate to the public that behind the sea bridge ferry controversies, under both the People’s Partnership and the People’s National Movement, were the agendas of those people and entities who acted, and continue to act, in their own selfish interests, and that this had to be borne in mind by the public when considering the evidence of those who had appeared before the JSC.

What was also interesting was that you felt that the Prime Minister was personally repulsed by the machinations of those involved in matters related to both the Inter-continental Shipping Company Limited-sourced Super Fast Galicia and the Bridgemans-sourced Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2. He was withering when he highlighted the fact that an attorney who advised the Port Authority on the ferry acquisition suddenly transmogrified into a tenderer with ICSL as agent, the same ICSL that later leased the Galicia to the Port Authority.

He claimed that the amount paid by a certain company to clean the Galicia was twice that stated by the company at the hearings. He himself revealed that the Cabo Star had earlier been offered to the Port Authority by a Mexican company, Baja Ferries, at a lower rate than the amount later agreed to (and now being paid) when it was leased from the unknown Bridgmans Services.

So we had a situation where a PNM Prime Minister was essentially suggesting that in relation to ferry procurement, behind the scenes there was scheming and plotting for self gain, ie, corruption, and not only under the PP but also under his own administration. The feeling engendered by the Prime Minister’s performance was that he is committed to putting an end to corruption at the port (and by extension in Government), even though at times he gave the impression that he felt that corruption is almost an insurmountable national hurdle.

To that extent, the Prime Minister seemed credible in his conviction, at least for the moment. Sadly, while he has been strident in the past in his anti-corruption rhetoric- both in Opposition and in Government – he has not actually delivered any results in that regard.

Let us hope that the Prime Minister’s appearance of commitment to ending corruption and punishing the corrupt will be realised and that this was not yet another skilful performance designed to cloak his Government’s inertia on almost every front.

And hopefully, it wasn’t a ploy to divert attention away from his political blunder of coining the word “jamettery” in response to the “fake oil” political noise made by the leader of the Opposition. Why he would come up with that word, bound to offend our women and all right thinking men, is beyond any of us. It was politically and personally insensitive.

Surely he could have found a smarter way to deal with the shenanigans of the Leader of the Opposition, who as prime minister famously stayed at the home of the owner of a company which got a $40 million National Petroleum contract approved under her government. Once again, a case of an unnecessary controversy bound to be used by the other side in the hope of creating short-term amnesia.

One hopes that if he does in fact genuinely seek to rid our country of corruption, he approaches that task with the commitment suggested by his performance before the JSC, and that it will not be another case of grand rhetoric made empty by inaction. Something to hope for, this Republic Day.

Mickela Panday

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