TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: HOUSE OF RUM - EntornoInteligente / TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: HOUSE OF RUM / News day / In his contribution to debate on the Finance Bill 2016 in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister declared, “When we talk about priorities, waste and just general bad behaviour…the last government takes the cake.” Indicating he and his family moved into the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and Diplomatic Centre on December 5, Rowley said a series of functions were held at the Diplomatic Centre since he was elected Prime Minister. Indicating there were three functions for adults and one for children, the Prime Minister said there was an alcohol bar at each function for adults. He surprised MPs when he disclosed, “You’d be very surprised to know…all the alcohol for those functions (for adults), we did not buy a bottle. We used from the houshehold, from what was there.” As MPs were still recovering from that bombshell, Rowley continued, “When Christmas was over, we had a valuation on what was left… $400,000 of liquour on the compound! That is what they left. That should tell you what the priorities were for those who were there before the PNM.” A cry of, “drunkeness!” was heard from Government benches as the Prime Minister reiterated, “Right up there in that compound, there is $400,000 in alcohol.” “The interesting thing about it, is that in the records, we can’t find how it was sourced. There is no paper trail towards its sourcing. So it leaves us to wonder, how all that alcohol got into that compound.” Repeated efforts yesterday to contact former Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar for a comment, were unsuccessful. She did not participate in debate on the Finance Bill.

Persad-Bissessar never lived at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in St Ann’s during the last five years of the People’s Partnership (PP) tenure in office. She opted to reside at her private residence in Philippine, south Trinidad.

However, Persad-Bissessar hosted several receptions at the adjoining Diplomatic Centre for a variety of occasions over the five years of her government.

At some of these functions, guests left with gift bags and even posed with Persad-Bissessar for pictures. Rowley said knowing the way the former regime managed the country’s business over the last five years, it would not be surprising if arrangements to get alcohol into the compound involved payments to persons favoured by the PP.

Recalling that Persad-Bissessar has been regularly distributing toys to children ever since she was first elected to Parliament in 1995 and held massive toy distribution functions at Christmastime over the last five years, Rowley observed, “The one thing we didn’t have was a prime minister running up and down the country on the back of trucks playing Santa Claus for two weeks.” In contrast, Rowley said, “What I demonstrated last Christmas, is that it is possible to have Christmas and have a prime minister working too.” WEDDING TALK IN HOUSE Turning his attention to Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, who was one of Persad-Bissessar’s aides during the PP’s administration, Rowley said Padarath, “has a problem with me and weddings.” Padarath, earlier in the debate, criticised Rowley for attending the wedding of a friend’s daughter in Barbados and then attending the wedding of a relative in Miami last month.

In his contribution to the debate, just before Rowley spoke, Padarath reiterated that every Monday morning, Rowley flew out of the country. He also tried to explain what “maticoor night” is in a traditional Hindu wedding. Responding to Padarath, the Prime Minister quipped, “We have some discussions and when you are betrothed…

let me know. If you invite me…I will come to your wedding.” Government MPs hooted in mirth and thumped their desks in support of Rowley, who calmly sipped some water while he was on his legs. As the thumping subsided, Rowley told Padarath, “I suspect there would have to be some serious discussions before you invite me.” Works and Transport Minister Fitzgerald Hinds quipped, “Be careful you don’t break the law.” Rowley also said Padarath was wrong to claim the Motor Vehicle Authority building in Fredrick Settlement, Caroni was completed.

Saying the PNM knows the level of seriousness required to address the country’s problems, Rowley said the evidence over the last five years shows the PP did not understand what good governance was.

He said to the PP, good governance meant, “I give you everything you want.” Stating this resulted in the PP giving, “what they didn’t have”, Rowley said this was why $200 million in contracts were awarded by the Works Ministry under then minister Dr Suruj Rambachan but there was, “no money in URP.” Indicating this resulted in the former PP Cabinet approving $250 million to cover those debts, just before last September’s general election, Rowley stated, “Debts like that are still debts to be paid.” He said while the Opposition continues to question what Government will do with the revenue it hopes to generate, Government is not going to, “take it to WASA and set it alight.” Indicating if only one Cabinet minister misbehaved under the former regime it would be considered an aberration, Rowley said, “It was the entire Cabinet.” Referring to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s earlier contribution, the Prime Minister said the decision to reduce the size of the Cabinet from 33 to 23 ministers, equates to a savings of $44 million per year.

“That is saving. We are attacking waste and trying to get savings,” he added.

Noting that whenever the Cabinet now meets there are ten empty chairs, Rowley said he sometimes asks, “where did the other ten go?” Recalling that Persad-Bissessar promised the expansion of the Government to 35 ministries with the creation of a Defence Ministry and a Home Affairs Ministry if the PP was re-elected, Rowley quipped, “At least John Public said, ‘nah…enough is enough’.” Slamming the Opposition for continuing to mislead the population about property tax, Rowley said he has been paying land and building taxes since he was 17 years old. He said it was wrong for St Augustine MP and Congress of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar to be telling persons that if Government collects the tax, they could lose their properties. Rowley said everybody in the country knows that if they do not pay the appropriate tax that is required, there is the possibility that their property could be forefeited.

“It has always been so. That is the law,” he declared.

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