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Wednesday 16 October 2019
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Kamla: I’m staying silent on Marlene-gate

UNC political leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, addressing supporters at the UNC pavement meeting held at the New Grant government primary school, New Grant. Photo by Lincoln Holder
UNC political leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, addressing supporters at the UNC pavement meeting held at the New Grant government primary school, New Grant. Photo by Lincoln Holder

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she is no "pip" and won't get involved in any "Marlene-gate".

Instead, she remains focused on getting answers to Finance Minister's interest in a Port of Spain apartment block and the reasons for the cancellation of the HDC's contract with China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Ltd (CGGC).

“I want to assure you that I do not have any pip but I do have a bit of a flu virus, common cold flu virus,”she said on Wednesday night.

Persad-Bissessar was commenting on the issue involving former minister Marlene McDonald for which the Prime Minister said her silence can be likened to a chicken disease known as “pip”.However, she said her silence was due to the matter being before the courts.

“I am not going to go into Marlene-gate. I think there are a lot of people who are very anxious for me to talk about Marlene-gate, all I will say about Marlene-gate is this – the matter is sub judice and I am a lawyer, I know better where to put my mouth where I don’t belong.”

The Prime Minister had told Parliament that Persad-Bissessar tipped off McDonald that police were going to arrest her, days before the former public administration minister was detained and appeared in court on corruption charges. There others, including McDonald's common-law-husband Michael Carew, were also charged.

In her first address at a meeting of the party’s pavement report at New Grant Government Primary School in Hindustan, the UNC leader hit Dr Rowley for his reaction to the BBC's report on Venezuelan migrants in TT.

“I am getting really worried when we hear the incoherent rant of the Prime Minister as to what is happening and who is in charge of this country when this man, sitting down and watching BBC TV and what he seeing…'code'.“Everybody else watching TV and enjoying life, he watching BBC TV and says the United Kingdom government is sending coded messages through the TV. You have to wonder if this is the man in charge of our country," she said.

“So there are two ways of looking at all of this, one is to say that he is deliberately creating distractions and the other option is well that is just what (Patrick) Manning warned us about. He is just behaving true to form. He just can’t help himself, he is just a disgusting human being.”

Persad-Bissessar signalled the party’s intention to write the Integrity Commission, asking for an investigation into Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s actions in piloting a bill which provides fiscal incentives for the construction sector.

She claimed there may have been a conflict of interest if Imbert was a private real estate developer when he proposed the legislation to the Cabinet. It has since been piloted in Parliament as Finance Bill No 2.

The Opposition has raised questions about Imbert's interest in an apartment block on Picton Street, Port of Spain.

“When that went for cabinet approval did Minister Imbert declare his interest and having declared his interest did he then withdraw and disqualify himself in the Cabinet from taking a decision to send that to Parliament?” she queried.

“I believe the answer to both questions are no but let the minister come and tell us, and he will have to answer to the Integrity Commission because we are going to write the Integrity Commission.”“It would be very interesting to see who took the note to the Cabinet because my memory of how the cabinet works, because it would be the minister of finance because it is a finance bill. So did the Minister of Finance take the note to Cabinet to approve the tax exemptions for multi-family dwellings?”

She the application for approval for an apartment building in which Imbert and his family have an interest was made in 2014.“And the actual approval was given in 2019, so in 2016 when minister Imbert was dealing with this bill in cabinet, he knew that he had an application for a multi-dwelling to get tax exemptions, so this definitely warrants an investigation by the Integrity Commission and we will take it there.”

Persad-Bissessar accused the Prime Minister of running the country through distractions and fake news as she said there remained unanswered questions about the HDC’s contract with CGGC for 5,000 houses, which Government cancelled

She said the contract is another reason to proclaim the procurement legislation and promised the UNC will do so within the first 30 days when they are re-elected into office.

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