Lee fires back at PM over UNC criticism: You would have done the same thing

David Lee -
David Lee -

Although the Prime Minister expressed outrage as Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar publicised confidential documents on the sale of the Petrotrin refinery, UNC deputy leader David Lee says Dr Rowley would have done the same thing had he been opposition leader.

Rowley expressed his disappointment in Persad-Bissessar at a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's on Wednesday afternoon.

He said she put the sale of the refinery in "jeopardy," in attempts to find distractions after being "humiliated" over the weekend.

He said, "They (the Opposition) have a habit of trying to upstage the government and representation of the people of TT."

On Monday night, at a UNC meeting, Persad-Bissessar said she had received some documents in her mailbox.

These documents were put forward to the government by the negotiating team from Patriotic Energies Ltd. They included details of ongoing negotiations over commercial matters and non-disclosure agreements.

She then accused the government of planning to sell Petrotrin's assets without informing the public.

Over the weekend, Persad-Bissessar was the topic of many social media posts and news stories for a different reason – a plagiarised statement was posted to her Facebook page.

The post congratulated US president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, as the US election results were called for the Democrats.

But it was later spotted as a plagiarised congratulatory message taken from UK leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, who posted it online a short time earlier.

In Persad-Bissessar's version, "UK" was replaced by "TT."

An apology was later issued, saying it was a result of an "administrative error." Later, another apology said Starmer's speech was used as a guideline, but was accidentally used without proper editing.

Rowley said, "In a simple matter like saying ,'Congratulations,' she disgraced our country by plagiarising, virtually word for word, the congratulations from a British MP."

Rowley said this led to Persad-Bissessar needing "a distraction" owing to her "humiliation...

"So she organised her forum on Monday and decided to interfere, intervene, undermine, lambaste
and destroy the government's carefully-laid plans and carefully negotiated positions with respect to the Petrotrin refinery."

He said the people who rely on the project are now the targets of political attacks, adding that a former prime minister should know better, and that she violated "all commercial principles."

But Lee told Newsday he didn't understand why the Prime Minister would say that, as the public "has a right to know.

"In 2019, the government pledged the assets of Petrotrin. But if you pledge the assets, then it's free. But you also trying to sell the refinery.

"So what Mrs Persad-Bissessar is saying is, you cannot sell the refinery to OWTU (Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union)/Patriotic if the assets of Petrotrin were pledged.

"For you to be able to sell the refinery, it has to be free from all encumbrances, and what she is saying is, 'Tell us what was the plan.'"

He said the Opposition is not doing "anything different from when the Prime Minister was opposition leader from 2010-2015," adding that its role is to "keep the government in check.

"If you go back in 2011, didn't the Prime Minister, who was the opposition leader at the time, get some documents alleging things about government members at the time in some plot to assassinate others and so forth? Didn't he release that in Parliament?"

He said the people of TT deserve answers, as Petrotrin's assets do not belong to Rowley, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, or the OWTU, but "to you and (me)."

Asked for a response to Rowley's accusation that the Opposition was continually trying to upstage the government, he said, "We are calling out the government of the day to account to the people of TT. I don't think we are doing anything different from him than when he was the opposition leader. I am sure that on many occasions he tried to upstage the then government.

"Our role is to call out the government on issues that affect the country and the population and that's what we do – not try to upstage them. We require accountability and transparency."

Newsday tried to contact Persad-Bissessar but all calls went unanswered.


"Lee fires back at PM over UNC criticism: You would have done the same thing"

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