Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is constructing a multi-million-dollar private residence in south Trinidad. This is according to former prime minister Patrick Manning, who made the revelation in Parliament yesterday, during his maiden contribution in this session of Parliament. He said the building was being constructed at a cost of some $150 million. Manning was contributing to debate on the Interception of Communication Bill 2010. The bill was presented by National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy to legalise the tapping of phones by the Security Intelligence Agency. Manning displayed elaborate pictures of the PM's private residence now being constructed.
He said Persad-Bissessar's private residence was bigger than the Prime Minister's residence and the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. He called on the PM to bring to Parliament, the required approvals for the construction. He also called on Persad-Bissessar to invite the media to the residence. Persad-Bissessar at one point got and claimed that Manning was "misleading the House." But Manning persisted. Manning said before the May 24 general elections she was struggling to construct the house, but much work had taken place subsequently. During his contribution House Speaker Wade Mark was forced to call on Manning to refrain from imputing improper motives against government ministers. Manning heeded the request, claiming it was being done under duress. He was critical of the intent of the legislation. He quoted several documents which claim that there was need for agencies like the SIA to maintain their secrecy if they were to be successful.
Manning accused the PP Government of moving systematically to dismantle the crime-fighting agencies which were set up to deal with drug trafficking and other serious crime. He said the PP Government removed the head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management, director of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T, and the Police Commissioner, two weeks before his acting appointment was due to end. Manning said the bill in its present form would "not only blind and cause to be deaf our intelligence agencies, but will seriously undermine the security of the State. "And when in the future–and it won't be long again–we begin to see the rise in crime and the return of things like kidnappings and so on, understand that the reason for that has to be placed entirely at the doorstep of honourable members opposite," he said. Manning also raised the issue of the aborted construction of a church on the Heights of Gunapo. The church was reportedly being constructed by Reverend Juliana Pena.
He insisted that no state funds were used to construct the church. "And no how they investigate, they could never prove that...It just has not happened," he insisted. Manning said he was blaming three people for the destruction of the church–Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. "I want to tell then one thing...That is God's church, not mine," he said. "And therefore the battle involving that church is not my battle, it is God's battle. Let us see how the battle will go from here on." Manning said the bill in the current form was "totally unacceptable to us." He added that the Opposition was, however, prepared to give its support to the Government "on anything that it considers reasonable and acceptable."