OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has dismissed the Government’s intention to initiate a commission of enquiry into the land acquisition processes for the Point Fortin Highway extension project as a political distraction.
“The Keith Rowley-led Government has once again resorted to attempts at distracting from the serious issues facing our country, as well as from their incompetence, mismanagement and inability to govern,” she said in a release.
She also noted the timing of the announcement, just two days after international credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating.
“At this time, the Government should be putting the people of TT first and conduct an urgent review of its failed economic and fiscal policies. Instead, they have chosen to play politics and a game of distraction. It appears that Rowley’s strategy is to pretend everything is going well and then try to convince people that his Government is working.” Former works minister Suruj Rambachan, who would have had ministerial oversight for the project for most of the UNC coalition’s term in office, was not concerned about the implications of the commission. “It is the government’s right to investigate what it chooses and one has to wait to see where it proceeds. If the government, in their own determination, wants it that’s their prerogative.
He said the process was determined by the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) as well as guided by a ministerial oversight committee and the commissioner of valuations.
Former president and CEO of Nidco, Carson Charles, who was in charge of the agency during the previous administration’s tenure, said the enquiry was a good opportunity to give citizens a clearer picture of what it took to execute a project of that magnitude.
“Nobody has ever been able to explain it besides (talking about) the bacchanal. Nobody has provided a dispassionate discourse on the actual process. This is a project so many years in the making and launched by the previous administration (under Prime Minister Patrick Manning) and all the processes followed were approved by that Manning administration. It’s not a new process.”
The first set of acquisitions for that project were done under Manning’s watch, he said, and Nidco just continued that process. “It is being treated as a partisan thing but I see it as an opportunity for people to understand the country and how it works and outside the bacchanal, what’s the history and what is in involved in doing such a huge project in such a short time.”