One must be fair to the Keith Rowley PNM, and give the ‘jack’ his right to obstinacy; in the mountain of failures since taking office over nine months ago, there have in fact been the rise of two major sectors.
The unanimous agreement is that a vicious criminal industry with sub-sectors in murder, violence, gun crimes, child crimes, sexual crimes and signals of terrorist activity have become the biggest growth sectors of the national economy.
As this sector has grown, the other traditional sectors that generate actual revenue and benefit to citizens have been stifled to a near catatonic state in less than a year of Rowley PNM Administration.
And where the growth of the Criminal Industry has not been able to directly impact the Energy Sector, the Rowley PNM is now making a concerted effort to nullify the gains of five years of resurgence between 2010 and 2015.
THE ‘AUDIT’ SECTOR
But that’s not all! As Crime grows under the watchful eyes and nurturing hands of the Rowley PNM, so too has the “Audits Sector”.
At every turn where Rowley PNM failure, corruption, arrogance…or all three, have been revealed, an ‘urgent audit’ somehow takes centre-stage, with the Government dishing out blame; making claims of ‘look wat dey do’ and reciting empty assurances that not a single person believes anymore.
Keith Rowley was a senior and loyal member of the Manning PNM until he was called upon to pay the price of his brutish and callous arrogance. And it was the Manning PNM that not only botched the bailout of CLICO in the post-2008 period, but also put the entire Financial Services Sector at risk of collapse and loss of confidence.
This was the time when a major bailout was estimated at $11.9 Billion, in the midst of a PNM Minister of Finance allegedly attempting to secure personal interests before national interests.
Yet, by 2014, the CLICO bailout was found to have cost Trinidad and Tobago over $20 Billion, and an additional $6 billion when support to Caribbean countries was factored in.
Still, after supremely incompetent mismanagement and failure, Colm Imbert comes in 2016 to announce an ‘audit’ into the bailout they botched; an audit that will cost citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, even more, millions of dollars with no chance of financial, revenue or growth benefit to the economy.
Imbert was also a senior, silent, complicit member of the Manning PNM; one who embodied every putrid characteristic the nation resoundingly rejected.
‘AUDITS? OR WITCH-HUNTS?
With the return of ‘putrid’ to the State, the Rowley PNM has executed a punishing witch-hunt campaign, ‘auditing’ everything from liquor cabinets to toilet bowls. And the only thing to come out of these audits have been:
· Distractions from Government failure;
· Smokescreens to hide corruption;
· A free-pass for continued rupturing of the economy, and
· Further decline on every national front.
So far, Keith Rowley has audited:
Food-Cards, to ensure that only the PNM poor benefit from urgent food assistance, and that the poor of other political persuasions would either starve, or be beaten into submission by getting a PNM party card and pledging allegiance to a political cult.
The National Lotteries Control Board, perhaps because after rank corruption in the pre-2010 period, and subsequent expansion of revenue and corporate social responsibility, the Rowley PNM wants to ensure that the NLCB is responsible only to the PNM and card-holding members.
A UNC Attorney, Gerald Ramdeen, who was said by Keith Rowley to be ‘a person of interest’ to the Government; somehow Rowley forgot about the persons of interest in his own Cabinet who are being protected from facing the consequences of their breaches.
The Mining and Minerals Sector, one that was corrupted to the extent that the PNM gave mining access to someone who was accused of treason, and started a descent into corruption for the sector that was only exposed post-2010.
The National Gas Company, because after ‘accusing’ the previous Government of taking higher dividends on account of quadrupled profits between 2010 and 2015, the PNM further increased its dividends take despite falling profits – the PNM needs for that fact to be hidden.
Today, after these and numerous other ‘audits’ packed into the period September to the present, the beleaguered Rowley PNM Cabinet announced on Thursday that yet another audit was undertaken, this time to assess the availability of textbooks for primary and secondary school children.
Why? Because “de Principal dem say dey cyah even fine space to put de book and dem dey already have”, according to no less a person than the Minister of EDUCATION, Anthony (Antoeknee?) Garcia.
With all of the noise, distractions, evidence of comprehensive failure and tens of millions being wasted on pointless audits, the Rowley PNM has been silent; almost nervous and secretive in the way it has ignored early signs of rank corruption, economic mismanagement, and State failure.
One may want to be generous and suggest that maybe they have been so busy failing at everything, some of the important issues have fallen through the cracks. If that is so, then there is a duty in generosity to trawl those cracks and bring the issues back to the table.
Keith Rowley and the beleaguered PNM must therefore now demonstrate that it has finally started understanding what it means to actually do the job of a Prime Minister and Minister, and immediately carry out ‘audits’ (*forensic), investigations, inquiries and inquests into:
1. The circumstances surrounding the arrest of a man with marijuana at the official residence of the Prime Minister some weeks ago – how could someone enter the premises with ‘weed’ when the search procedures at the gates are as thorough as the US Embassy?
2. The circumstances surrounding the deposit of $100,000 in cash by the Minister of Planning to her personal bank account, within months of entering Government. This is particularly critical given the Minister’s history of impropriety with State funds and record of repeated abuse of a Government credit card.
3. The precise circumstances surrounding the removal of Marlene McDonald from the Cabinet, especially since as a Deputy Leader of the PNM, the former Housing Minister possibly wields more influence over the State than before. If the lady was too damaged for the Government, is that the reason why she is good enough to be a senior member of the PNM party?
4. The circumstances and outcomes in the issue of the Minister of Energy using her Parliamentary office to effectively ‘instruct’ a State energy company to give financial support to a La Brea-based NGO. This NGO assisted the Minister in the 2015 election campaign and the issue points to serious potential breaches of the Integrity in Public Life Act.
5. The circumstances surrounding the appointment of Justin Junkere as a Temporary Independent Senator for the close of debate on the Strategic Services Agency (Amendment) Bill 2016 with absolutely no declaration or admission from the Attorney General that Junkere was beholden to the AG’s office as a retained lawyer receiving State briefs. This occurred at a time when the PNM met secretly with two Attorney ‘Independents’ who happened to vote with the PNM for the nationally rejected Bill.
6. The circumstances which led to Faris Al-Rawi’s confession in Parliament that he was aware of confidential SSA information on the case of murdered Senior Counsel, Dana Seetahal, despite the fact that the legislation does NOT allow an AG to have such sensitive information at any time, ever.
7. The current status of the RowleyGate email investigation; reasons for delays in making the findings public, and every State institution, officer and department that has had influence and input into the information and findings that will be made public.
8. The circumstances surrounding the Rowley PNM’s heated attempt to bully legislation through the Senate (The Family and Children Division Bill 2016) which contained the name of a private company that could have become the ONLY authority, for all time, through which paternity and DNA testing could be conducted for the Judiciary. This was described, kindly, by Independent Senator Sophia Chote as a ‘recipe for mischief’, and the company is run by persons who have no professional expertise in such testing…but no condemnation from the Law Association or Chief PNM Defender, Martin Daly.
9. The circumstances surrounding allegations by the former Central Bank Governor, Jwala Rambarran, that Colm Imbert bullied the new puppet Governor into giving access to a $2B ‘Blocked Account’ that, by law is ONLY for use in Monetary Policy.
10.The circumstances surrounding the Rowley PNM’s two refusals to meet and discuss the future of Arcelor Mittal before the company took the decision to shut down its operations and leave 700 people abruptly unemployed, and whether Faris Al-Rawi as Arcelor Mittal’s Legal Counsel ever advised the company on how to shut down, lay off staff and avoid legal and industrial relations backlash.
11.The circumstances surrounding the purchases of two Mercedes-Benz cars by two Ministers of Government shortly before Colm Imbert’s announcement of a 50% increase in duties on luxury cars. One Minister is alleged to have concocted the idea of the increase, and another Minister is said to have been indirectly involved in a scandalous transfer of funds to a PNM politician’s private NGO, where his Civil Servant spouse was the signatory of a cheque paid to the organization.
12.Investigations into every documented and evidence-based allegation of ‘breaches of Parliamentary Privilege’ by PNM Ministers; documented and publicized findings on every such breach, and written explanations from the Speaker of the House of Representatives on why, if these breaches took place, she failed to act on every occasion.
So before Keith Rowley and his cast of incompetence reward themselves with pay raises, while more and more families lose jobs, incomes and financial security, these are the audits that will underline whether Trinidad and Tobago progresses or continues on a PNM facilitated collapse.
Audit these, Rowley! Perhaps then you just might earn yourself some semblance of moral authority to hold a job that you do not even begin to grasp.