Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young yesterday produced evidence to show the former People's Partnership (PP) government never spent $24 million which was needed to build proper infrastructure for the Super Fast Galicia cargo vessel. Young also said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar should know there is nothing wrong with the Port Authority seizing the computer of acting CEO Charmaine Lewis as part of any investigation at the port.
In his contribution to the budget debate in the House of Representatives, Young had Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh on the defensive when he asked Gopeesingh if he was present for the approval of a Cabinet note on April 3, 2014. He said that note was discovered by Cabinet appointed investigator Christian Mouttet in his investigation of the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 and Cabo Star vessels for the seabridge.
Through that note, Young said, the PP committed TT to a $56.3 million contract to procure the Galicia for one year. The Galicia abruptly left the domestic seabridge earlier this year.
However, he disclosed that the PP never told the country that the note also approved $23.9 to $24 million, "For infrastructural adjustment to facilitate safe berthing and operationalisation of the vessel." Reminding MPs the work was never done under the PP, Young said, "I can assure the population that the work is being done."
Young said while the Opposition had criticised the Government for pursuing unsolicited bids for vessels for the seabridge, the note disclosed the PP was looking at unsolicited offers for vessels when it was in office.
He dismissed Persad-Bissessar's earlier complaints regarding the seizure of Lewis' computer. Young, who is an attorney, explained, "It is trite law that an employer who owns the equipment of an employee is entitled to take the equipment of the employee and to look through the equipment of the employee." When some Opposition MPs looked baffled by his remarks, Young said, " It is the company's equipment."
At a post-Cabinet news conference on September 21, Young disclosed that the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs had launched a forensic audit, investigation and examination at the port.
Recalling that Persad-Bissessar made heavy weather about witness tampering, Young reminded MPs that, "her attorney general (Anand Ramlogan)" was recently charged with witness tampering. In response to Opposition complaints, Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George ruled that Young breached no standing orders by mentioning that matter in the way he did.
Young said while Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Persad-Bissessar discussed Government-Opposition collaboration on anti-crime legislation, there has been silence from the Opposition on a package of such legislation sent to them after that discussion. While the Opposition has not responded to the Government on that proposed legislation, Young said he suspected, "they (Opposition) blanked out who it was sent to, and sent it to the media."