Dr Keith Rowley

Dr Keith Rowley

A contractor who made a claim for $125 million has settled for a mere $1.5 million, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has revealed.

Speaking at a People’s National Movement (PNM) virtual meeting in Belmont on Thursday night, Rowley said there are contractors pursuing claims against the Government for hundreds of millions of dollars “with the assistance of the UNC (United National Congress)”.

He added: “Most of those claims are certified corruptly... If we don’t fight it, we (will) have to pay it. We fought one a couple years ago, it came to a head last week...a contractor claiming $125 million...we fought it. The claim was settled last week for $1.5 million. If we didn’t fight it, we would have had to pay $125 million, but fighting it successfully we only have to pay $1.5 million. But (Oropouche East MP Roodal) Moonilal has a problem with the lawyer fee or with the effort of the Government in fighting that.”

The Prime Minister also said there was one contractor who sued a State entity for $1.4 billion.

PM to Moonilal: Stop putting up a defence 

Addressing the Oropouche East MP’s criticism of six British SRPs (special reserve policemen) making $15 million annually working in the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service), the Prime Minister said Moonilal was putting up a defence because he didn’t want Government to spend money on British SRPs who are pursuing white-collar criminal conduct in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Well let me tell Mr Moonilal something tonight, those SRPs, the SRP you talking about is a British Queen’s Counsel. But when they come to work with the police in Trinidad and Tobago, they have to be inducted into the TTPS and made an SRP,” he said.

Rowley said this was because when the Scotland Yard officers came to Trinidad and Tobago in the 1990s, and they were not made police officers in the TTPS, that effort was undermined because local police refused to cooperate and surrender themselves to Scotland Yard because they were not Trinidad and Tobago police.

“We learnt from that, so all the British police and lawyers who are coming to help us in fighting white-collar crime, when they get to the Police Service, the Commissioner of Police, not the Prime Minister, inducts them into the Police Service so they could follow criminal conduct in Trinidad and Tobago. And whether Moonilal likes it or not, it will happen and it is happening,” the Prime Minister said.

UWI people talking damn stupidness 

As he defended the 2021 national budget, Rowley said the UNC elements were the only voices criticising the budget and they had done so without reading the budget documents.

“Unfortunately, that applies to UWI (The University of the West Indies). People in The UWI would not read the budget documents, will not educate themselves, but with the label of UWI, (they) on the television all the time talking one setta damn stupidness.

“You the people who rely on them and rely on us to guide you, you invest in us, you invested in them to guide you. They start off (their commentaries) by saying ‘I don’t know but...’ and as you hear that, is rubbish down the line,” the Prime Minister said.

No backpay

Rowley said he did not receive any backpay on the special executive grant for travel-related expenses.

Speaking earlier at the virtual meeting, Finance Minister Colm Imbert rubbished claims by Moonilal, who had stated that the Prime Minister got backpay for the period March 16, 2016 to March 16, 2017.

Moonilal had quoted from a March 2017 circular sent out by the Minister of Finance, which referred to the grant taking effect from March 2016.

However, Imbert explained that he first issued the circular in March 2016 but there were errors in it and a circular was issued in March 2017 to address this.

“It was a routine administration matter,” he said.