PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement that internal politics within the PNM administration of deceased former prime minister Patrick Manning, led to a 12-year delay in the Vieux Fort housing project, was met with shock and bewilderment by Manning’s widow Hazel Manning, who yesterday gave an account of the project which conflicts with Rowley’s.
In a media statement, Manning, using a quote once popularised by her husband that: “Facts are stubborn things. They are very hard to go away”, questioned the “true story” of the discrepancy at the Cleaver Heights Project in Arima which led to Manning, then PM, calling a halt to several housing projects including the Vieux Fort project.
“On returning home to Trinidad I was stopped short by headlines full of acrimony and blame about Vieux Fort Housing Development, St James. And articles arguing that based on reports from a Cabinet colleague about another project Prime Minister Patrick Manning stopped the Vieux Fort Project. I believe that it is my responsibility to respond on Patrick’s behalf and to find the peace I found in Costa Rica where development is taking place in a harmonious setting,” Manning stated in her release.
She then outlined a different account of the “true story” of the Vieux Fort Housing Project which included a court injunction in 2008 which prevented construction at the site as well as when construction designs were completed and whether new design consultants were hired.
“When did the court give its final verdict? When were the residents removed from the site to facilitate construction? When were the designs for the structures completed? When did construction actually begin? When were the statutory approval received from the various government agencies? How long did it take for the HDC to undertake a new detailed planning and design exercise? When were the new design consultants hired,” Manning asked.
“As you gather the data, in chronological order, I want to remind citizens that Patrick Manning was removed from office in May 2010. He suffered a debilitating stroke in January 2013 and died in July 2016. I can say without fear of contradiction that Patrick would never stop a project in the manner outlined in the media. It was not in his nature.” Her statements received ringing endorsement from former PP Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal who launched a broadside against Rowley saying he (Rowley) was seeking to blame the dead former prime minster, for his own “failure and incompetence.”
“It is detestable, it is despicable that the current Prime Minister Rowley would seek to blame Patrick Manning for the failure and for the incompetence of himself as Housing Minister and I so condemn him,” Moonilal said.
Speaking shortly after celebrating the Hindu New Year yesterday by participating in a procession that transported a murti of the Hindu goddess Durga from Debe junction to Gandhi Village, Moonilal did not mince words as he too expressed shock with Rowley’s statement.
“Prime Minister Rowley sought to blame prime minister Patrick Manning, deceased, for the delay and work stoppage at that site and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, truth be told, that project started under Housing Minister Rowley and ran into serious problems as a result of poor quality designs, poor quality drawings, bad engineering work and really a lack of all planning approvals from Town and Country Planning, EMA, WASA, TTEC,” Moonilal said.
“But the real problem with that is that in 2008, a neighbour in the vicinity took the HDC to court claiming the buildings to be erected were going to block her sunlight and disturb her in her private dwelling and that matter remained in court from 2008 to 2015. And it was only when that was completed that we were able to restart that project.
“This may well be an attempt by the Prime Minster Rowley to start his internal campaign in the PNM but he ought not try to change history. I condemn in the strongest possible tone the use of this project in the political campaigning of the PNM and I condemn the untruths as to the cause of the delay and the work stoppage at the site in Fort Vieux.”