Wednesday 27 May, 2020

Edwards: Don't feel sorry for Marlene

File photo.

File photo.

Interim political leader of the Progressive Party, Nikoli Edwards is calling on citizens not to show empathy to Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald in the face of fraud and corruption-related charges laid against her.

Speaking at a media conference at the Chancellor Hotel, St Ann’s on Thursday, Edwards expressed his disappointment for the rallying support from the embattled MP’s Cabinet colleagues since her arrest and eventual firing from the Cabinet, and revocation of her position as Deputy Leader within the People’s National Movement (PNM).

He said the country witnessed McDonald’s colleagues engaging in gang behaviour, “we have yuh back” mentality despite her being accused of wrongdoing.

Edwards said while he understood concerns about her health, it was something else to “sing praises” in the face of seven criminal charges including misbehaviour in public office, conspiracy to defraud, and money laundering.

The interim political leader said the money involved could have been used for community projects targeted at developing youth, as he lamented that the country continues to suffer embarrassment at the hands of its leaders.

He called on citizens to reject this kind of response to wrongdoing.

“I, therefore, call on citizens of this country not to show empathy towards Ms Marlene McDonald, but rather acknowledge that this is as a result of the kind of behaviour that we detest in this country.”

Edwards said while McDonald deserves her day in court, in the same way that citizens do not have sympathy for gang leaders being arrested and killed, there should be no empathy for her.

“When we see persons committing robberies and being caught for that, do we feel empathy towards them?” he questioned.

“It is the same thing. And as such, we must reject any sort of sympathy and empathy towards Ms McDonald because if we are serious about fixing crime and criminality in this country, then those who have defrauded this country, those who have caused irreparable damage, must be held to account and this is exactly what we are seeing before us,” he added.

Raising questions on the course of investigations into the allegations facing McDonald, Edwards questioned whether the PNM disciplinary committee conducted any internal investigation and whether any similar action was followed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley or Cabinet, given the roles she held within the party and Government.

Noting that investigations carried out by the Integrity Commission on two previous occasions concluded with there being no findings of evidence of wrongdoing against the Port of Spain South MP, Edwards said the outcome of police investigations now cast a negative light on the investigation process employed by the Commission.

Questioning how many other investigations by Commission may not have followed due process, and how many more allegations have gone unnoticed and unchecked, the interim political leader urged citizens to demand that the Commission make their report into McDonald public.

Again turning his attention to the Dr Keith Rowley-led PNM, Edwards said it appeared that the party was securing the backs of its membership in the face of serious allegations in the public domain.

It is for this reason, he said, citizens must reject the PNM from ever assuming office again.

He said, however, that it was refreshing to see swift action from the Anti-Corruption Bureau, especially where the norm has been a cycle of investigations to no end.

Commenting on another major political development this week, Edwards commended Garvin Simonette for stepping down as a Senator.

Simonette resigned following the circulation of screengrabs of driving under the influence charges he picked up in the United States five years ago.

But, he questioned why another Senator, charged locally for the same offence, remains a sitting member of the Senate.

“Why has Senator Lester Henry not taken a page out of his book and followed suit?”

“His boldfaceness demonstrates to me that he is self-serving and does not see it necessary to put country before self.”

The interim political leader said those holding public office must be held to a higher standard and when found to be engaged in wrongdoing it can’t be the business as usual approach and they are reprimanded only with a slap on the wrist.

“We cannot have persons holding high office feeling as though they are a law unto themselves and therefore the law-bending over backwards to treat with them.”

Further criticising the governance of the PNM administration, Edwards said Government has failed to present a long-term plan to treat with the influx of Venezuelan migrants, has not properly reprimanded Darryl Smith and has not ensured that Maxie Cuffie repay the nation for his medical bills.

Edwards labelled the country a failed state, giving Government a fail grade on its treatment of crime.   

He said with 338 lives lost, and despite the National Security Ministry having received the highest allocation in the 2019 budget, it was clear that Government has no effective plan to treat with crime.  

He said what was required was a change from the blanket approach to crime-fighting, ensuring law enforcement has the right tools at their disposal, along with strategic intervention, and investment in community-level programmes targeted toward youth.

“What we need are strategic investments in social programmes. The fact is that crime and criminality stems from deeper social ills in the community.

And as a Government, there have not been the strategic investments in repairing much of the harm that has been taking place across society in Trinidad and Tobago.”

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