What an admission by the Prime Minister …FERRY DEAL CROOKED?

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What an admission by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley – the head of this country’s Cabinet.

Weeks after the country knew it, Rowley is now coming to say that the deal for the lease of the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2, may be crooked.

Even your die hard PNM supporters smelt something fishy in this rushed deal with Bridgemans Trinidad Limited.

So why say it now? Is it because the heat is on and it is very unlikely your Government will escape this one?

How come Allison Lewis, chairman of the Port Authority is still on the job? It was Lewis who said weeks ago that if there was something wrong with the deal, she would immediately resign? Why is she still there, along with other members of the Board? Why is Rohan Sinanan still the Minister of Works and Transport?

If this had happened under the PP Government, you would have been calling for general elections! Well, stay tuned because something smelling to the high heavens is about to be released and Prime Minister, you will see the key players in this most expensive ferry deal. Maybe, after this, general elections may be in the air!

Rowley called an urgent meeting with stakeholders at the Magdalena Grand Beach resort on Monday at 2 pm. But he turned up at 2.45 pm, and Sinanan five minutes later, keeping at least 70 persons in the room wondering if this was all a joke.

At a news conference after the meeting, Rowley was confident that investigations by businessman Christian Mouttet, the Integrity Commission and the Parliament’s Land and Physical Infrastructure Joint Select Committee (JSC), would discover the truth about the circumstances under which the Ocean Flower 2 was procured.

He said the Port Authority was working overtime to acquire the services of another passenger ferry before the TT Express goes on dry dock. Expressing confidence that more vessels would be available during the upcoming winter period, Rowley said the Port Authority will broaden its search to all parts of the spectrum to find an appropriate passenger vessel for the sea bridge.

Rowley disclosed that stakeholders agreed to a proposal to appoint two more Tobagonians to the Port Authority’s board of directors to ensure there is no repeat of the problems now facing the sea bridge. He also announced that a committee comprising representatives from Government, the Tobago House of Assembly and the private sector will be established to deal with operational issues on the sea bridge. 

He rejected claims by some that yesterday’s meeting was a waste of time. Rowley said contrary to those claims, the discussions were fruitful. 

Rowley welcomed a JSC probing this matter because, “It will involve persons providing answers in full public view and explaining themselves at the level of the Parliament.” He promised Government will cooperate with it fully.

Rowley also expected the Port Authority and all other interested parties to fully cooperate with the JSC. The JSC is scheduled to hold its hearing at Tower D of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre on September 4 at 1 pm. Rowley welcomed the Commission’s probe for whatever purpose and benefit it could have.

Rowley slammed attempts by the Opposition and other people to demonise Mouttet.

Rowley said he had no problem asking a member of the business community to look at the State’s operations to see what is going on there. He said a three-member committee appointed recently by Cabinet is looking at operational issues at the port. He said even with a separate company running the ferry service, there were numerous operational problems, including the scheduled dry docking of vessels. Rowley also said Government was aware of problems facing the air bridge and these will be addressed. 

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