I am deeply disturbed the Commonwealth Observer Mission will not be here. Whilst we have a tradition of free and fair elections, there is no guarantee it will continue. We must remain vigilant, especially since it is very difficult to trust this Prime Minister and leading ministers.
Very early, their authoritarian streak surfaced. In a deliberate strategy to suppress dissent, Rowley and National Security Minister Stuart Young started labelling nationals seditious and treasonous, crimes for which individuals elsewhere have been beheaded or imprisoned for life. I am convinced their goal was a police state. They rejected modernisation of the Sedition Act passed in 1920 for the benefit of the brutal, authoritarian colonial power. Young was adamant “It remains on the books.” Indeed, when questions arose whether the Police Commissioner could use camouflage-type uniform on duty, using language characteristic of his Prime Minister, Young blasted at citizens with arrogance and scorn, saying: “No one cares” about your views and instructed the police to “ignore them, ignore the silly conversations, the stupid conversations”. Can these people be trusted to preserve our democracy? Remember the Attorney General attempted to surreptitiously amend the Freedom of Information Act!
There is also deep doubt about their truthfulness. We still do not know the real reason for that visit by Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez. Rowley said they discussed the pandemic. But the day after the meeting, Paria activated a shipment of fuel that was destined for Aruba but which reached Venezuela.
And the Aruban government said the shipment never entered its waters. Who was lying to the population? Worse, Young claimed to Parliament that in his conversations with the US ambassador, the diplomat did not “raise the breach” of the OAS Rio Treaty. But the ambassador publicly disagreed, saying he did raise the treaty with Young, who then tried to brazen his way out of his morass. The Express saw it as “an insult to the intelligence of the population” and asked pertinently, whether the Prime Minister was involved “in this shameful attempt to pull wool over the public’s eyes”.
Trust in the leadership diminished disastrously.
Questions also arose whether Rowley was truthful in a matter involving the Chief Justice. According to news reports, “the Chief Justice did not deny he had recommended to the Prime Minister the names of three people to obtain HDC housing.” But Rowley took some time before denying any communication between himself and Archie on the issue. Law Association President, Douglas Mendes SC, said “failure to make a prompt denial could naturally lead to the conclusion there was some truth to it,” particularly since Archie had not denied he lobbied Rowley. Which of these two highest office holders was being dishonest?
Then there was that aborted $471 million HDC contract with Chinese company, CGGC, once blacklisted for misconduct by the World Bank. Rowley was Housing Minister in 2018 and brought to Cabinet the framework agreement containing “lavish” terms and conditions with “unprecedented benefits” for the Chinese company.
But Rowley claimed he did not bother to check the agreement, “because if I happen to be holding a portfolio temporarily, it has nothing to do with me being the Prime Minister. That is an administrative thing and I have no personal involvement”.
In a column titled “Morass of Mendacity”, I described Rowley’s utterances as “utter rubbish coming from someone who has been in and out of government!” Besides, Rowley was the substantive Housing Minister for four months in 2018. It was disingenuous for him to say he was merely holding the portfolio because some minister was out of the country. Was the Prime Minister trying to deliberately deceive the nation?
And did he mislead the Parliament on December 6, 2019, when, as the new gas price threatened Point Lisas, Rowley “strenuously denied” he had negotiated the price with oil and gas majors. In April 2017, Rowley boasted “we went to EOG, and met around the table with the Chairman and CEO” and his team.
“We finally managed to agree at a price acceptable to both sides.” Then in the budget debate in October 2017 Rowley said “Madam Speaker, I am proud that I closed the gap and I brought BP from where they were and I brought NGC from where they were and we had an agreement.” Wasn’t he directly involved in the negotiations? On whom did he want to shift blame? Can this man be trusted?
And there are other issues including Rowley’s “jaw-dropping” attempt to rewrite history in the Darryl Smith story and the hiring of two vessels for the sea bridge.
Now we are being asked to believe the Prime Minister received a letter from the Commonwealth stating they cannot afford to send an observer mission under the quarantine arrangements. Why not show the nation the letter? “I am showing nobody any letter” Rowley retorted and brazenly claimed, “I am telling you the people, and I know you will accept that from a Prime Minister who always tells you the truth.”
A great many people guffawed derisively; others reacted with silent contempt. People do not trust this Prime Minister.