PM responds to UNC’s Tobago townhouse claims: ‘I have no questions to answer’

Page 9, form A, of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's 2019 integrity in public life declaration (filed in December 2020) as shown to reporters at a press conference at the PM's Official Residence in Blenheim, Tobago on Friday. -
Page 9, form A, of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's 2019 integrity in public life declaration (filed in December 2020) as shown to reporters at a press conference at the PM's Official Residence in Blenheim, Tobago on Friday. -

KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY

The Prime Minister is considering legal action against United National Congress (UNC) MP Saddam Hosein who accused him of not declaring to the Integrity Commission the purchase of a $1.2 million townhouse in Tobago from Inez Investments.

At a news conference at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Blenheim on Friday, Dr Rowley said he and his wife purchased the townhouse at Inez Gate, Shirvan Road, and declared such to the Integrity Commission.

He said: “I have no questions to answer, I stand ready to co-operate on any question they (the Integrity Commission) ask me, because there is no question they can ask me and I can’t answer – none.”

Waving a copy of his 2019 form A integrity in public life declaration, he said: “If I turn to page 9, where all the property owned by my wife and myself, and one is shared by my children as well, you will see that there are six properties listed here.

“The one at the top is my house in Goodwood Park dating back to 1985. The one at the bottom – the most recent acquisition – says address and description of property including land and floor area, Shirvan Inez Development. That’s the last one you see there. In whose name held – Keith and Sharon Rowley, date of acquisition – 22nd February 2019. Original cost – $1.2 million; estimated value at December 2019 – $1.2 million.” He said the documents were lodged at the Integrity Commission on December 20, 2020, after an extension was requested as he was unable to file in time for the May deadline.

“With respect to 2020, I filed that on Monday morning because I had asked for an extension which expired on Wednesday and I was to be in Barbados Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so I made sure I got it done on the weekend. I finished it on the weekend and it went in Monday morning.”

He said Opposition MP Saddam Hosein claiming he knew what was on his declaration from should raise alarm as form A was supposed to be “secret document.”

He said, “For good reason, the Integrity in Public Life Act requires two forms to be filled out – one form A, where you have to put all your details: bank account number, address of the bank, how much money was in the bank, your credit card, how much money you pay during the year, every property you own, every old car you have – all your life stories in form A, but form A is a secret document. Staff at the Integrity Commission have to swear an oath to handle that and if they breach that secrecy, the penalties are severe.

“Form B is the form that the public has access to. Where on form B you are required not to put the details of any of your business as I have just mentioned, but wherever you may have a conflict; for example, as Prime Minister I have some shares in FCB, Plipdeco...those things, because Government is involved and I am Prime Minister, I have to put that there, or if somebody gives you a gift, you name that there – those are the kinds of things on form B.

“You will never see on form B my bank account, which property I own, how much property I own, or anything like that. Form B is the only form a member of the public can look at. You can’t get access to form A because form A has sensitive info.”

Rowley acknowledged that contractor Allan Warner, a principal of Inez Investment, was his friend, but denied he received any favourable treatment in acquiring the property. He said claims that the townhouse was valued at $1.7 million and that he received it at a favourable discount was untrue. He said he negotiated – like all buyers – for a better price. He claimed the townhouses are now being sold for around $1.3 million.

Rowley said the Opposition comparing his situation to that of former prime minister Basdeo Panday being charged for failure to declare a London bank account was asinine. Rowley claimed the UNC was attempting to influence Monday’s THA election and help those “in black suits and green jerseys.”

He added, “That is the kind of company you keeping, this is what you trying to import in Tobago.”

Rowley said he is seeking legal advice on whether he was defamed. “I have passed this, this morning, to my lawyers to determine, because I take legal advice, whether I have been slandered by Saddam Hosein; that accusation of obtaining from a contractor and hiding a property and not declaring it. I want to know what recourse I have.”

Rowley said he was disappointed that the Integrity Commission did not come to his defence to refute allegations that he did not declare his acquisition of the townhouse.

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"PM responds to UNC’s Tobago townhouse claims: ‘I have no questions to answer’"

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