The parliamentary Opposition is “not comforted” by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's appointment of a one-man investigative team to investigate “one of his ministers” to examine the circumstances surrounding the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2 says Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
As such, she said, “he must rescind his decision and immediately move to establish a Commission of Enquiry into the Tobago ferry fiasco,” she said in a statement.
“Rowley has effectively hand-selected an investigator to examine the hand-selected ferries to service the seabridge,” she said.
The appointment of a private citizen, business executive Christian Mouttet as sole investigator, she said, “is an unprecedented and unparalleled approach to conducting investigations into alleged wrong doing.
It was not proper for a member of the business community who may depend on Government’s support and may also be a prime user of the Tobago sea bridge and other port facilities, she said, to be asked to conduct an independent inquiry into the operations of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and its relevant officials.
Moutett, who may have the best intentions in the world, she said, “begins his task in controversy and in an apparently compromised position.”
Claiming that Rowley “missed the boat a long time ago” in dealing with the sea bridge issue and has missed it again, she said, the situation requires the independence of the investigator.
For months, she said, the deal with Bridgeman’s Services Group for the lease of the two vessels have been the subject of Freedom of Information Act requests, an Integrity Commission complaint and calls for the police to investigate, and citizens have been calling for the Government to come clean, and Government has refused.
She questioned the authority of the one man investigative team, business executive Christian Mouttet’s authority to call for documents, or summon anyone, and the basis of the authority.
Noting that the sole investigator would be supported by the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, she said, the ministry “does not have investigative powers under the law.”
This shows, she said, that Rowley cannot be trusted, and it appears that he prefers “to cloak” the actions of his ministers and the board of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago in secrecy.
“Worse still, he is giving the investigator one month to investigate the matter,” she said.
In other matters, where Rowley suspected fraud or corruption, she said, he was quick to appoint professional auditors and to make information available to them.
“What's different this time? Why no professional auditor? Why no public hearings?” she asked.
Nothing less than full disclosure and transparency regarding the contracts and procurement of vessels, she said, “is unacceptable.”
Citizens deserve to know the truth about the deal, and those involved in any unlawful activity, she reiterated, must be held accountable.