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Rowley: Lawyers will benefit most
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi say they are ready for the commission of enquiry into the construction of the Las Alturas Towers housing complex in Morvant. But Rowley said while he welcomed the probe it would be another waste of millions of taxpayers’ money and Al-Rawi said the PM would be “severely embarrassed” when the probe was completed.
Rowley said it was a clear case of the Government trying “to put something on my shoulder” as the general election approaches. He said soil-testing for the project was done after he was removed as housing minister. “The contract was awarded in December 2008 for those collapsed towers. I wasn’t even a member of the Cabinet at the time,” Rowley told reporters during a brief interview at the Parliament.
“The first signs of failure of the buildings were observed in 2009, when I wasn’t in the Government,” he added. He said a lot of the information about the project was available, but “if you are going to have another mini Uff enquiry to get that, then so be it.” He also said while the buildings were demolished in 2012, “interestingly enough, as we get to a general election we are getting a commission of enquiry, so we had papa Uff and now we have baby Uff.”
Rowley said he was the most investigated “minister”, as it would be the third commission of enquiry he would be engaged in. The Uff commission of enquiry was held under the former PNM government into Udecott and the construction sector. “All this will really turn up are some fat cheques for lawyers,” he added, saying Government had spent $600 million since assuming office for lawyers to do such things.
He predicted the probe would cost the state some $15 to $20 million. In a comment posted on her Facebook page, former minister Emily Dick-Forde denied a claim by Persad-Bissessar that the second phase of the project was signed in 2008 when Andre Monteil was chairman of the HDC.
Dick-Forde was minister from 2007 to 2010. Dick-Forde said: “He (Monteil) was never chairman when I began. There was always an acting chair from the time I came in. During my tenure no one told me about the moving structures nor landscape.” Al-Rawi, who also spoke with reporters at the Parliament, said Persad-Bissessar had only given part of the Las Alturas story.
“There is evidence which exists, and I am absolutely sure of this, which the Prime Minister is aware of, which will demonstrate conclusively where any blame is to lie and it certainly doesn’t lie with me,” he said. He denied a claim by Persad-Bissessar that he signed a report in 2006 as acting HDC chairman. “She failed to read the date on which I signed that, which was not in 2006,” he said.
He insisted that while he served on the HDC board “no issue concerning this project was brought to my attention. And, further, the Prime Minister failed to indicate that I was removed from the board of the HDC in 2009.”