The Prime Minister is hosting a Christmas reception at the new Prime Minister’s residence in Tobago.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the residence of the Prime Minister at Blenheim is complete and ready for occupation.
“It done! It finish. It nice!” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told a crowd at a public meeting at Four Roads.
“There exists an appropriate residence for the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in Tobago and for the first time as Prime Minister, on the 21st December, I will be able to host Tobagonians at a Christmas function at Blenheim,” he said to applause.
Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd (UDeCOTT) chairman Noel Garcia told the Express that the new PM’s Tobago residence cost $17.5 million.
The Prime Minister said the last prime minister to use the official Tobago residence was Patrick Manning. He said the United National Congress abandoned the residence and allowed it to go into disrepair. “The sea ate half and the termites the other half,” he said. He said the Government decided that there must be accommodation for the Prime Minister both in Trinidad and in Tobago and therefore took steps to build on the site.
He said however for the four years he had been in office, when no official residence was available in Tobago, he spent just one night in Tobago at taxpayers’ expense in a hotel. And that was because it was the night before a Cabinet meeting at the Magdalena. “On every other visit, I go in meh own house. I don’t even carry staff with me. Ah cook meh own green fig and saltfish,” he said.
The Prime Minister said this was in stark contrast to UNC, under whom millions were spent at the Coco Reef, “drinking and drunken”. Every time the Kamla Persad-Bissessar cabinet went to Tobago they chose not to stay at the hotel owned by the Government, the Magdalena, but instead at the privately owned Coco Reef, he said.
Noting that the expenditure under the UNC ran into millions, the Prime Minister said: “The “biggest scandal in my Government is that a group from the Ministry of Sports went to Tobago to a function at the THA and they spent $94,000. That was (equal) to one hour of the UNC (Cabinet) at the Coco Reef hotel,” he said.
“There is one thing I can guarantee you, you may not agree with what we do to benefit the country, but the one thing that they will never be able to truthfully say is that I as Prime Minister ‘tief’ taxpayers’ money,” he said.
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The Prime Minister said change was coming in every area. He said his Government took the decision to renovate the heritage buildings, some of which, like Mille Fleurs (Port of Spain), had reached the point of collapse. He said the UNC, which had no problem paying $300 million more than necessary to a contractor for the Curepe overpass, slammed him for paying $3 million to bring back the Cazabon paintings which now hang in some of the heritage buildings.
He said when the roof of President’s House collapsed just before the 2010 election, the UNC made a big song and dance. “And when they went into office, they spent, they earned and they thief but didn’t spend one dollar on the President’s House,” he said.
“Five years later it fell to me and it fell to me and my Cabinet to deal with President’s House and the first thing we had to do was to go and move out seven truckloads of rubbish from inside the President’s House. They had they own private garbage heap inside the President’s House....Our President’s House is now complete and ready for use in short order,” he said.
The Prime Minister heaped praises on UDeCOTT, stating that its young professionals, all of whom were women, had done the country proud, in the restoration of these historic buildings.
He said the same applied to the Red House restoration, which Kamla Persad-Bissessar “had put in Wade Mark hand” and it was a “five years of disaster”. The Prime Minister said he took “personal responsibility” for the Red House renovation and chaired a committee, bringing the project to fruition.
Although it was a Diego Martin meeting, there was no sight or mention of Diego Martin Central MP Darryl Smith. On the platform were the two other Diego Martin MPs, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who is Diego Martin North/East MP, and the Prime Minister, who is Diego Martin West MP. Prominently on the stage with them was Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. Smith, facing allegations of sexual harassment, appears at the point to be politically insignificant.