Senior Multimedia Reporter
Unleashing a stinging attack against Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the local media and black-skinned people, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday denied he is a dictator who had breached people’s constitutional rights by not calling local government elections.
Speaking at a PNM political rally at San Fernando City Hall auditorium, on Thursday night, Dr Rowley gave a fierce defence of his former Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi for going after white-collar criminals.
Giving a detailed overview of the 19-year-old Piarco airport scandal, Dr Rowley praised Al-Rawi who represented T&T as the civil asset forfeiture case stemming from the Piarco corruption probe began last March.
The government lost the case at the Privy Council but the Prime Minister said Al-Rawi had done his duty to this country.
Condemning Persad-Bissessar for “continually attacking Al-Rawi as he pursued the case,” Dr Rowley told his supporters: “If you hear them! Faris Faris! Faris. Fire Faris! Everyday Fire Faris! That unrelenting call to fire Faris.”
The Prime Minister explained: “They wanted him out as the Attorney General. Faris was authorised to follow white-collar crime and he did so brilliantly. If I was stupid to partake in that advice that 1 billion dollar case would have fallen,” he said, adding that the government had won the case in the lower courts.
Dr Rowley then proceeded to chastise mainstream media saying: “ The local media has a lot to answer for. Imagine that case is going on.”
He added: “ The Minister sitting there for one month and you can read nothing about it. Ask yourself, what coverage was given?” Guardian Media’s Gail Alexander had reported on the case but the Prime Minister made no reference to that.
Instead, he told his supporters that the media was in cahoots with people who did not like the PNM. This caused some members of the audience to jeer at media workers. One woman from Tobago shouted: “All you too nasty.”
The Prime Minister chastised the media for reporting on legal fees, noting: “Lawyers are not cheap.”
Next Dr Rowley continued his scathing attack on Persad-Bissessar whom he accused of hiding restitution monies which the government obtained from people who had pleaded guilty in an American court.
“When the American government seized and jailed the Americans who pleaded guilty to corruption, some of the restitution money came back here and Kamla received that money in silence and never said a word,” he alleged.
He again reiterated that he had no regrets about having Al-Rawi on the case.
“I kept him there for 7 years and at the end of the seven years mission accomplished!” he added. Dr Rowley also alleged that former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had refused to prosecute the matter for five years. He recalled the scandal of Section 34 saying back then he had led the charge to have T&T stand up to the then-Persad-Bissessar government.
Finally, Dr Rowley lashed out at “black-skinned people.”
“I have seen people make reference to my skin colour as if it is something that disqualifies me. That should not bother me and should not bother you. And imagine most of that damn nonsense comes from black people. Imagine Black people calling me black. They saying I am black. If they know how I love my black colour,” he said, as the audience cheered.
He said the whole country should remember the history of UNC corruption and let that determine their choice of voting. Dr Rowley also called on people to help in the crime fight saying 10,000 police officers could not police every home of 1.3 million people.