In a scathing attack on his political leader and Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said the affairs of controversial State-owned Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) "smells to the high heavens." He said the PNM was being put on trial because of the support its political leader Manning was giving to the controversial Udecott. In an animated hour-long presentation in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon, Rowley supported the legislation to validate and protect the work of the Commission of Enquiry set up to investigate Udecott and the local construction sector. He expressed strong disapproval against actions of Udecott to condone practices that were against its own tender procedures. "The tail is not to wag the dog. The dog is to carry the tail and keep its tail behind it," Rowley said. He also became enraged after discussing legal action by Udecott to obtain a stay on the operations of the commission.
He said: "There are those of us in the PNM, for the PNM, who support the PNM, who want no part of this. "The PNM has fundamental principles about morality and public affairs. Those principles are coming under attack and I am putting you under notice. The next election would be the Udecott election said. "(John) O'Halloran (a PNM minister who was found guilty of corruption) has receded into the background. There are other names to be called." Rowley reminded his other PNM MPs about the stigma from the O'Halloran scandal that affected the PNM's ability to campaign for elections in the 1980s. He said: "This country has to understand that sometimes you have to break the mould to make a new shape and I am breaking it on behalf of all of the PNM people who, in 1986, when we went to campaign in my area... they (were) slamming doors in your face in Westmoorings, in Glencoe, in Bayshore and all they (are) telling you about is O'Halloran."
He said the Udecott fiasco looked at least ten times worse than the alleged corruption in the construction of the Piarco International Airport. He added: "That is what we are being called upon to do. And those of you, those of you who think I am being (an) obstructionist... what we are being called upon to do by a small clique of people in the country is to support wrongdoing, (to) pretend not to know and see if we can ride it out. We are not going to ride it out." He gave several examples of discrepancies in the conduct of business at Udecott. Among these included the role of local contractor Hafeez Karamath in a multi-million dollar Valsayn land transaction with the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) Construction Company Limited, in which Independent Senator and Udecott director Michael Annisette was involved. "Land owned by Udecott, Karamath gets the contract with no competition. And there is bank Udecott... bank Udecott, yes, because part of that arrangement was that Karamath would be financed by Udecott.
"So Calder Hart, the (executive) chairman of Udecott goes to Calder Hart the chairman of the Home Mortgage Bank and orders $170 million and hands to the contractor (who had a contract of) $134 million," Rowley said. He expressed annoyance that the contract was awarded to Hafeez Karamath Limited with no competition, no tender and that "Hart from Udecott, borrows from Hart from Home Mortgage Bank $170 million." Rowley said: "Now the question is this, if the contract was awarded for $134 million, why was Udecott borrowing $170 million for the contact?" Rowley claimed that there was no truth that Karamath had joint ownership in the land. And, he added that it went from the National Housing Authority to the NUGFW to Udecott and "nowhere would it show that it is owned by Hafeez Karamath." Rowley also dismissed Hart's excuse that his and Sunway's fax number were not the same. "If the technology exists for Sunway to make a computer glitch in Glencoe and generate a number in Cascade, how come then the same telephone number appeared on the rubber stamp of Sunway?" Rowley asked.
"And that is what I am being asked to defend and there is no way that I as a PNM MP defending that. Next week, I will be 60 years old. I am a pensioner and I am good to go. 'Go quietly,' as I was advised, is not on." He said: "As I told the Prime Minister when he fired me and asked me to go quietly, it is not on. I represent the people and I have a job to do. Let the records show that when this was going on, one member of the PNM stood up and said in the name of the PNM, this must not go on. "We have seen where we have come from and we are seeing where we are going and, for me, it is the biggest issue." Rowley called on the Prime Minister to stand up in the Parliament and dispute the truth of his statements. "That has to be wrong (Udecott's legal challenge against the commission). No country should accept that from any Prime Minister. But as a country, I do not care who you vote for. I do not care who you worship, government in any country is damaged by that kind of behaviour and if this country cannot call to order its Prime Minister and his Cabinet and a political party to say we are not accepting that, God help us because those who are hired ought never to get bigger than the people who hired them," Rowley said.
"But me in the Cabinet, I am dismissed from the Cabinet and slandered for misconduct but nobody could say what the misconduct is. Do me a favour Prime Minister, in this debate, get up and tell the country what I did in the Cabinet." He added that each school child in T&T knew "there was something in this country called Udecott and its smells to the high heavens and this problem ought to dealt with by changing the board."
Kamla is not surprised:
?UNC deputy leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last night:
"It's not surprising the statements coming from PNM MP Keith Rowley. It is exactly what we have been saying about corruption, except this time the statements are coming from the bowels of the PNM. "It proves what we have said that the PNM is the most corrupt Government this country has ever seen."