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Thursday 19 September 2019
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Rowley: Govt has nothing to hide

Petrotrin witness statements to be made public

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley PHOTO BY KERWIN PIERRE.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley PHOTO BY KERWIN PIERRE.

DURING the post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday the Prime Minister said the PNM government, counter to what the Opposition was spreading, has nothing to hide on the Malcolm Jones case.

On the case that went to the Privy Council, Dr Rowley said the issue is that Petrotrin, independent of the government, decided on the basis of legal advice not to release information to those who requested it. The case itself had nothing to do with the information but the request for information, he said.

Rowley said the government knew nothing about the request for information until after the Privy Council had ruled that the information should be released.

He also said he is “instructing the Minister of Energy to use the authority he has under the Constitution to instruct Petrotrin to make the two witness statements available to the public.” The witness statements are from former Petrotrin executives Charmaine Baptiste and Anthony Chan Tack.

The PM said he gave the instruction this morning. “The public will read them and determine whether Malcolm Jones can rest in peace.”

Rowley said it is a common occurrence that someone, after requesting information from a government entity under the Freedom of Information Act may, under some provisions, not be granted the information. The person may then take the matter to court and win the case, resulting in the government agency making million-dollar payments to the person’s lawyer. Rowley said, ultimately the taxpayers lose out, since taxes help fund these agencies.

He also said a new policy is being put in place which will notify the AG’s office of any requests people have made for information from government agencies under the FOIA. This way the AG’s office can advise on the agency’s decision on whether to grant the information. Rowley said millions could be saved by this simple piece of advice.

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