Sunday 24 June, 2018

UNC, PNM squabble over corruption

The ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and Opposition United National Congress (UNC) have descended into a war of words over the issue of corruption.

This as UNC Chairman David Lee along with former minister Devant Maharaj questioned Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statements regarding corruption made during a talk-show programme on a radio station over the weekend.  

The Prime Minister lamented that corruption has been an issue that his Government has had to deal with at all levels – “corrupt from the top to the bottom”.

Maharaj said, however, that Rowley stopped short of pointing out where corruption lies in the country, leaving citizens to believe that it is everywhere and everyone is corrupt.

He also questioned which groups the Prime Minister was referring to, whether it be political appointees to Ministerial positions and State Boards, public officials or businessmen.

“Without being specific Dr. Rowley has tarnished all of us,” the former minister said.

Maharaj further questioned why the Prime Minister has not taken the allegations of corruption to the Police, Fraud Squad or other relevant authorities rather than “bemoaning to the population” if he is aware of the occurrence of corruption.

“It is time that the Honourable Prime Minister start confronting the incompetence of the Administration and its failures its inability to treat with a declining economy and inept Ministers and State Boards,” he added.

The UNC also pinpointed the ferry fiasco as an example of wrongdoing under the current administration.

But, the PNM responding to the comments made by the UNC said the Opposition party was the last group that should be commenting on corruption as the most allegations of corruption made against a government was during 2010 – 2015 when the UNC was in office, two instances of which are currently engaging the attention of the law courts.

“The PNM reminds the Chairman of the UNC, and its leadership, that there are currently matters before the High Court where public officials are being accused, on the basis of evidence, of facilitating a corrupt transaction, involving land, that cost the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago $175 million under the watch of a UNC minister.

The Office of the Attorney General through following the money, for the first time in Trinidad and Tobago has been able to locate what appears to be a “bribe” paid by the vendors of the land to a public officer who overvalued the land.”

“Additionally, the PNM reminds the nation that recently search warrants were executed on a number of contractors, and it is reported that on the warrant which was approved by the Courts, presumably on the basis of evidence provided to the Courts, that the name of a former UNC minister was listed as being a co-conspirator in possible crimes against the State.”

The PNM also listed scandal surrounding the construction of a waste water treatment plant in Beetham and the award of “questionable” leases by the CDA the night before the 2015 General Elections as a “handful” of questionable and corrupt transactions to have taken place under the UNC.

The party added that the nation does not welcome comments from the Opposition on corruption unless it is providing evidence on those who may have participated in corrupt acts during 2010 – 2015.