A Trinidadian woman has been jailed in the United Kingdom (UK) for defrauding a charity she worked for of in excess of £.75 million.
Members of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) investigating procurement issues on the sea bridge told the T&T Guardian yesterday they were “very concerned” about the dismissal of acting Port CEO/GM Charmaine Lewis.
Committee members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the dismissal was “extremely harsh and oppressive.”
There was also a concern that the action was “politically driven and motivated by the Government, by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Works and Transport.”
One committee member said: “There are going to be serious consequences arising out of the decision by the Government.”
Efforts to contact JSC chairman Stephen Creese were unsuccessful yesterday. There is also no word on whether the committee will reconvene any time soon in light of what has transpired.
But former Works and Transport Minister Devant Maharaj wrote to Creese yesterday urging him to “initiate immediate and urgent action” from the JSC on the termination of Lewis.
Maharaj asked, “Where was the parliamentary protection that was supposed to be afforded to Ms Lewis as a result of giving her honest and truthful evidence before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament?”
He said added: “The abrupt and unlawful firing of Ms Lewis is nothing short of a blatant attack on our Parliamentary system and it demands a response from those in the JSC and Parliament.”
Maharaj warned that if the issue is not addressed “the entire process of the JSC and the Parliament will be undermined as no public official will be prepared to tell the truth in fear of losing their job or even appear before the JSC.”
Also contacted yesterday, former Port commissioner Ferdie Ferreira said, “As far as I am concerned this a disaster for the Port.”
He said having worked on the Port for more than 30 years “Charmaine Lewis was the most knowledgeable, competent and was the most helpful of all the managers to the board during our time there.”
Ferreira said her dismissal “is not a good signal from a Government who has expressed strong views on whistle blowing.
“This is not a good reflection on the Government and has to be a source of concern to public servants who are invited to these sessions and are required to give evidence. They have to be very careful.”
He said the Prime Minister and the Government “should be very concerned about this. It is a very unfortunate incident and I hope justice will prevail.”
However, former Works and Transport minister Stephen Cadiz, who also appeared before the JSC, said Lewis’ dismissal was inevitable.
“ I don’t know that she would have thought anything other than this would be the outcome,” he said.
But Cadiz was concerned about the Port’s operation and the tenders for the sea bridge with Lewis gone and CEO of the Inter Island Transport Service Leon Grant suspended.
He said: “Is it operational or not, the fast ferry tenders closed three weeks ago and we have not heard anything about it.”
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said yesterday the Port’s board was handling the tender and evaluation procedures. He could not say where the process had reached or whether the evaluation committee had started the process.
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