Sunday 27 September, 2020

Strike three for Marlene: Rowley must address the nation, UNC says

File photo.

File photo.

“Stop hiding behind press releases and address the nation.”

That’s the call from Public Relations Officer of the United National Congress (UNC) Anita Haynes who urged Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to come out of hiding and make a public address regarding embattled Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald.

McDonald has been charged along with her common-law husband, Michael Carew, Victor McEachrane, Wayne Anthony and Edgar Zephrine on offences of conspiracy to defraud the Government, and money laundering. McDonald also faces charges of misbehaviour in public office.

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Speaking with LoopTT, Haynes said the latest fiasco involving McDonald which saw her third firing as a Government Minister is an indictment on the Prime Minister and his leadership of the current People’s National Movement (PNM) administration.

She said any attempt by the Prime Minister to spin the conversation in the direction that none of the offences McDonald is being charged for occurred under his tenure shows his “extraordinarily poor judgement”, especially in the context of McDonald’s previous firings and subsequent rehiring.

“The mere fact that Ms McDonald was able to go through the screening process and the selection process for candidacy in 2015 while these allegations were very much hanging over her head, of course it’s an indictment on Keith Rowley.

When she was fired from the Cabinet on the first occasion, when asked whether or not she had been cleared the Prime Minister was very dismissive of the entire issue.

To come now and attempt to remove himself from the equation – this is a sitting member of a Cabinet that has been arrested on money laundering and corruption charges – you cannot downplay the seriousness of it.”

Haynes said there was no way that any Government or any serious political entity can be dismissive in the face of a development of this nature.

Criticising the Prime Minister further for his silence on the matter, she said there has been no discernible achievement by the Keith Rowley-led administration and the latest debacle has further highlighted his incompetence as a leader.

Recalling that Government embarked on a 2015 campaign based heavily in uprooting corruption in the public sphere, which his continued throughout their time in office, the UNC PRO said in the same way that it has been doubling down on allegations of this nature, the same response must be seen in the handling of McDonald’s latest firing.

She said the Prime Minister must recognise that he has a duty to the people of Trinidad and Tobago to publicly address the matter.

“At a time when you have Ministers of Government being arrested and charged on issues of corruption and money laundering, the Prime Minister must show true leadership and address the nation, not be hiding behind the new Minister of Communications.

He has said that he takes full responsibility on this Marlene McDonald issue, however, he has been hiding very conveniently behind press releases and at this point in time, that’s not good enough.”

Acknowledging the upcoming Local Government and General Elections, Haynes said while the PNM continues to grapple with this scandal, the UNC will remain “resolutely focused” on delivering plans and policies to move the country forward.

“We cannot run another campaign of getting one person out but not showing the population what we intend to do, once elected. That is where our focus remains. And, as this crisis in governance unfolds we do have to maintain our focus to give Trinidad and Tobago something to vote for - which is what we intend to do. 

Meanwhile, in response to the Port of Spain South MP’s firing, a statement from the PNM noted that the matters allegedly occurred several years before she was first appointed to the Cabinet in 2015.

The party further noted that McDonald was cleared twice by the Integrity Commission in respect of the same matters.

Further, it noted the Prime Minister’s stance on corruption and wrongdoing by public officials and reaffirmed its commitment to the independence of the major stakeholders in this ongoing situation: Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Judiciary.

“It is in the strengthening of that independence, and the timely execution of their functions, that confidence will be reposed once again in our institutions, and the new society of which our Political Leader speaks will be created,” the party said.

The PNM added that while it was troubled by the recent developments, it was thankful to the MP for all her years of service to the party.

“While undoubtedly saddened by this turn of events, the People’s National Movement is thankful for the yeoman service Ms. McDonald has provided, both as a Deputy Political Leader with responsibility for Legislative Matters and as the Port of Spain South MP for the past 12 years.

The Party also recalls with gratitude her stint as Chief Whip in the House of Representatives during the Opposition years of 2010-2015.” 

The PNM also extended well wishes and prayers for McDonald’s health and well-being
as she traverses this difficult part of her life’s journey”. 

McDonald was admitted to the St Clair Medical Centre after falling ill.

The MP was expected to appear in the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court today to answer the charges, however, this has delayed the matter from being called.

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