Kamla takes on Faris: Who is speaking the truth?

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Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar wants to know if Arcelor Mittal financed Faris Al Wari’s election campaign last year.

Speaking at the United National Congress’ (UNC) Monday Night Forum at the Tableland Secondary School on Monday night,  Persad-Bissessar  said there were rumours and allegations that the steel giant funded Al Wari’s campaign in 2015.

KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR

KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR

But on Tuesday, Al Wari struck back, denying that Arcelor Mittal had funded his campaign.  He did admit , however,that he and his junior Minister had represented the steel giant in the past.

ArcelorMittal announced that it would be closing its doors and sending home close 644 workers just over a month ago. The decision came just a day after the Industrial Court ordered Arcelor Mittal to pay monies to employees who were fired, without any dialogue with their union.

Persad-Bissessar accused the PNM Government of doing nothing to ensure that the laid-off workers receive some form of assistance suggesting that the reason for this was that government may have been in bed with the company.

FARIS AL WARI

FARIS AL WARI

She asked whether Al-Rawi had prior knowledge of the plant’s closure and whether he was consulted on the decision to terminate the workers.

The Opposition leader questioned whether the company did in fact finance Al-Rawi’s election campaign. She asked, “Did you charge them exorbitant legal fees to disguise any financial assistance? And I’m only asking questions, so don’t get on your high horse and blow hot and cold. Answer the questions.”

Persad-Bissessar warned that if the Opposition was not provided with clean, clear-cut answers in the near future, it is prepared to take the matter to the Integrity Commission for consideration and determination.

Persad-Bissessar also claims that Law Association President Reginald Armour SC was also legal advisor to ArcelorMittal.

She questioned if Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was aware that Armour, his former personal lawyer, also served as the company’s legal advisor and questioned the attorney’s possible involvement in ArcelorMittal’s closure and firing of its workers.

She asked, “Did he (Armour) legally advise them and/or Faris to take the legal action of declaring bankruptcy in order to deprive workers of their benefits? Did they know, and if they knew did they tell the Prime Minister? But this is the Attorney General of the Prime Minister and his past personal lawyer. If he was the attorney for ArcelorMittal, did he ever know of the plan to fire the workers and shut down the plant?”

The Opposition leader said it needed to be made clear whether the company helped to play a role in the financing of the People’s National Movement’s election campaign.

But speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Al Rawi admitted that he and his junior minister both served as lawyers for ArcelorMittal.

However, he said, they recused themselves upon assuming office.

While he could not give a specific date as to when he stopped working for the ArcelorMittal, he said he relinquished responsibilities months before he began campaigning. He denied receiving any financial assistance from Arcelor Mittal for the 2015 elections.

Al Wari said he was not bothered by Persad-Bissessar’s threat to take him to the Integrity Commission. He pointed out that none of her past allegations have proven to be true.

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