Manning Shoots a Rowdy Messenger

By Raffique Shah
April 27, 2008

Dr. Keith RowleyIf former Trade Minister Dr Keith Rowley is a hooligan who displays ‘wajang’ behaviour, when did these abominable character traits first manifest themselves? Prime Minister Patrick Manning, explaining why he summarily fired the senior minister, told the media that for all of five minutes during a Cabinet committee meeting, Rowley ranted and raved and misbehaved, much to the shock of his colleagues. Pressed by journalists on Rowley’s darker side, Manning said: “It was not the first time. I’ve had to talk with him before.”

I’m no authority on human behaviour, but common sense and sixty-two years on this here Earth have taught me that hooliganism is not like taste, which is acquired. Most people of that ilk are born that way and show their crassness early in life. All of us must know people who can be so classified. But we also would have noted that side of the individual from early contact with him or her. Did the PM not note or know that Rowley was a ruffian when the latter joined him in opposition back in 1986?

There are times when ordinary, docile people can explode when they feel aggrieved or offended or frustrated. I know because I fall in this category. Those who know me well would attest to me “bussing cuss” on whoever rubs me the wrong way at the wrong time. In my time I’ve roundly cussed my party leader at a private meeting after he’d behaved in a manner not just unbecoming, but used racist remarks and proceeded to deny all counts when confronted by his colleagues.

On that specific occasion I came perilously close to putting some blows to his backside had the burly George Weekes not grabbed me from behind, both of us falling on the floor, rather comically, I should add. Because I am by nature a polite and respectful person, I felt very badly about my display of temporary insanity, more so because the chairman of that meeting was the late Dr George Sammy, a man for whom I had tremendous respect.

I can cite several other occasions on which my tart tongue got the better of me when I felt deeply offended by the attitudes of senior military officers, a House Speaker, an acting President of the Republic, and sundry “big boys” who felt their money or power gave them the right to defecate on me.

Normally, though, I am a very polite, even charming person. The Rowley I know is not dissimilar to me. He is not only lucid during discussion, but he argues his point in a most convincing manner, not resorting to the imperious attitude some people in high office do.

So when the PM said that Rowley was fired for being a ruffian, I questioned myself: why would Keith descend into a cesspit at a Cabinet meeting? Rowley denied that his behaviour was unbecoming of a minister. But he did say he was disturbed by the seemingly unending free rope given to UDeCOTT, one of two agencies that are spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars.

He is not the first to have expressed such concerns, although he is the first in Cabinet to have done so. And the questions he raised are valid. It matters not, as the PM argued, that UDeCOTT has delivered all its projects on time. The central question here is accountability, since the billions expended by this creature of Government, like its land development equivalent, the EMBDC, is taxpayers’ money. For reasons best known to the PM, and presumably those close to him, he has reposed great faith in the men who head these corporations.

Interestingly, both Calder Hart and Uthara Rao are foreigners who seem to carry more weight in their adopted country than very qualified nationals do. In the wake of Rowley’s dismissal from Cabinet, it seems they are more powerful than ministers who were elected to office, or who were appointed by the party that won the last elections. Without appearing to be xenophobic, let me say this situation is worrisome to nationalists and patriots.

When a minister can be fired for raising concerns about the free rein given to a foreigner, we are sliding down a slippery slope. The Canadian Government would hardly give any foreigner that kind of leverage over public funds. Let me pose another question.

Would the Indian Government allow a foreigner to settle a wrongful dismissal and sexual harassment allegation using public funds? But that happened here, and to date no one knows how and why it did. Under what heading did the company’s accounts reflect that payment?

In this latest matter that erupted with the firing of Rowley, one can ask if it was because of “five minutes of temporary insanity” or the fact that he questioned UDeCOTT’s authority to add or subtract multi-million-dollar projects as it saw fit. Mr Manning is intimately aware of the many ways in which the Piarco airport project was used as a feeding trough by a gang of greedy men. Has he not learned from that shameful scandal? Is Rowley the sacrificial rottweiler on the altar of free rein expediency?

Related News: April 27, 2008

Udecott takes centre stage
Udecott was launched on December 28, 1994 as a limited liability company registered under the Companies Ordinance, specialising in project management. The corporation falls under the Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment.

PM wants blind, unquestioning obedience

Rowley’s message-Cabinet oversight

King: Hart has too much power
Calder Hart has too much power. That’s the word from former Independent Senator Mary King, in wake of Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s firing of Trade and Industry Minister Dr Keith Rowley…

Udecott too loose
Former chairman of the Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee (PAEC), Wade Mark, meanwhile, said investigations into Udecott projects between 2002-2005 showed the State-owned organisation was “loose with its operations.”

A grey area of accountability
While the law provides several mechanisms of oversight and scrutiny for public bodies, not all are applicable to Udecott because of its hybrid status as a private company owned by the State to carry out public projects.

Issue of accountability
From the moment the last Patrick Manning regime announced it would be setting up “special purpose” companies to bypass the bureaucracy created by the Central Tenders Board and other government agencies, concerned citizens raised questions about the possibility of corruption.

Another one bites the dust
Mr Manning, by his own admission, therefore, was the investigator, the accuser and the judge, all wrapped up in one as regards the alleged bad conduct of Dr Rowley.

Atherly sacked over Hart too?
According to well placed sources in the PNM, former mayor of San Fernando Ian Atherly was also axed after disagreements with Hart over a major development project–Chancery Lands Project, in San Fernando–on lands belonging to the corporation.

Mark: Probe UTT too
Manning’s brief mention of Julien on Thursday, however, was enough to trigger another strident call from UNC-A leader in the Senate, Wade Mark, for a forensic investigation of the University of T&T (UTT).

Ramnath: Rowley betrayed!

Dismissal recalls ‘mutiny’ of 2001′
PNM faithfuls are adopting a wait-and-see approach on whether dismissed Trade and Industry Minister Dr Keith Rowley will again challenge Prime Minister Patrick Manning for leadership of the PNM when the party’s internal election comes up in June.

Hugs and kisses for Rowley at jazz festival

Tobagonians ask ‘Manning eh crazy?’
But the Tobago man-in-the-street and woman-in-the-house are intent on not taking lightly the perceived slight of Rowley’s dismissal for an apparently frivolous reason. They also are praising his intent to stay in the PNM and fight to prove his innocence of any wrongdoing that could merit his firing.

Udecott’s phantom hotel
THE URBAN Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) may now face penalties from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) stemming from its failure to disclose plans to construct a hotel at the site of the National Academy for the Performing Arts, EMA sources said this week.

Too much cost overruns at Udecott

Stand up and be counted
POLITICAL Leader of Congress of the People Winston Dookeran is calling on the ministers who allegedly informed PM Patrick Manning of what transpired during the last Cabinet sub-committee meeting, to “stand up and be counted…”

At the ‘hart’ of the matter

Applying brake on spending by Govt
Mr Williams was, last week, offering the Manning administration unsolicited advice which, as it turned out, was both repudiated in theory and unheeded in practice.
The Central Bank Governor is, of course, obliged to try moral suasion, beyond throwing the levers of monetary system management that are within his repertoire of regulatory options.

Public blowing things out of proportion
A call to Calder Hart’s home yesterday revealed he was out boating. His wife, Sherrine Lee Hart (Su-Hua Lee), who answered the telephone, said the public was blowing things of proportion.

Round One
Manning’s political leadership up for PNM contest in June.
Will Rowley challenge?
Cabinet reshuffle hinted.

UTT to control Arts Academy
THE DECISION to have the Academy for Performing Arts fall under the purview of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) was a recent one said associate provost at UTT, Professor Ken Ramchand.

7 thoughts on “Manning Shoots a Rowdy Messenger”

  1. I’m no authority on human behaviour, but common sense and sixty-two years on this here Earth have taught me that hooliganism is not like taste, which is acquired. Most people of that ilk are born that way and show their crassness early in life.

    It is a good thing this statement is qualified with “I’m no authority on human behaviour”. People are not born bad or hooligans. Hooliganism is learnt. Like most bad habits they are learnt to different degrees in different environments. Some people are more or less susceptible to bad influences.

    But the key issue here is accountability.

    It seems the Prime Minister Patrick Manning feels accountability is unimportant and citizens should simply trust in his Christian judgment.

    As a matter of fact, Manning has been operating as if he was appointed by God to rule this nation and he is not accountable to anyone else. When called upon to explain what the government is doing about rising food prices Manning told the people to have faith and that the government is addressing it. Instead of articulating a clear plan of action, he calls on the people to have faith in him and his government. There is something fundamentally wrong with this Prime Minister who continually reminds people of his Christian principles as a means of deflecting the call for accountability and prudent financial management.

    From the get-go there have been calls for transparency and accountability from concerned citizens in regard to the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), headed by Prof Ken Julien and the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT), headed by Calder Hart. These two bodies have been spending billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and are escaping the scrutiny provided for by law for public bodies, because they were set up as private companies on behalf of the state. Manning’s government’s intention was to allow these bodies to operate outside of the scrutiny that all public bodies are required to do. The board of directors and chairmen of these companies do not declare their assets.

    Manning has continually defended these Chairmen and companies but is yet to allow for the type of scrutiny that is required for public bodies as a means of showing that the government is about minimizing opportunities for wastage and corruption. We have the experience of the Airport project, Miss Universe Beauty Contest, Rice deal and other projects done under the UNC government where millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds were stolen and squandered. Instead of Manning doing better, he expects the public to simply have faith in him.

    It is time the people let Manning know that his conduct is unacceptable and he is being held responsible for any stealing or wastage done under his watch, and when he demits office we should have a thorough investigation into how funds were spent on all projects. We also want a forensic audit of his assets and that of his family. Once things do not add up, let Manning join Panday in court.

  2. with regards to Manning relieving Rowley of his position, let’s just remember that every action causes a reaction.We in trini politics (not Raffique) always never want the truth. his behaviour must have been unbecoming for a member in cabinet for such actions to be taken, and i am certain if some of us practice a little i spy , simply having secretly recorded conversation with those who are known to be of questionable behaviour all will be put to rest. I dont always agree with the PM. but I believe something was radically wrong. at that meeting for such actions to have been taken. were there any minutes of the meeting. I for one from experience, if i am the secretary fo any organization or whatever and there are serious issues such as may have been the case all information with respect will imbeded into my minutes and in this modern day secretaries take notes with digital recording devices. dont tell me it ain’t so with
    with our cabinet.

  3. Sometimes intended actions create unintended consequences. The PM’s
    firing of Mr. Rowley is more than an eye-opener, it is a wake-up call. There are many questions to be raised here, like what kind of judge would summarily fire his senior Govt Minister on the complaints of non-elected officials without having the accusers face the accused?, what manner of man is the pm?, Can ministers of government stand by their actions publicly without hinding behind the pm?, Do we have ministers who are more interested in the demise of fellow ministerss than the business of the people?, why should we trust state enterprises?, what manner of men are put to run these enterprises?, who are they accountable to?, why do we elect representatives to manage our affairs then have unelected officials overseer them?, is the pnm becoming a party of yesmen?
    There is noothing in Mr. Mannings explanation that leaves room for comfort. Every citizen should be concerned the quality of government that we see before our very eyes, we need to be concerned on whether they can deliver on solutions to crime, inflation, food prices and food production, government reform, traffic congestion and many of the other ills facing the poulation. There is nothing coming out of Whitehall to indicate that any of these concerns are being seriously addressed. The one thing we know for sure is the person who occupy that office wants to leave a legacy that he ;is the one who changed the skyline at the water front, the one who built the new pm’s residence, the one who promoted the G-pan, the one who is sresponsible for introducing the UTT, the one who is responsible for introducing smelters. That in itself is not negative but but borders on self-agrandisement. So again, whould we be concerned about the firing of Dr. Rowley – Yes, should we press for answers – yes. Dr. Rowley represent a diminishing breed of parliamentarians that would do us good to hold onto.

  4. Rowley needs Speaker
    DIEGO MARTIN West MP Dr Keith Rowley now needs Speaker Barry Sinanan to give him the go ahead if he wants to speak in the House of Representatives, after Prime Minister Patrick Manning fired him from the Cabinet last Wednesday.

    Hart in spotlight again
    Probe launched into Rowley’s statement

    Ministers deny any knowledge of 60-room hotel
    Several ministers who were part of the 2002-2007 Cabinet, which approved the construction of an Academy for the Performing Arts Centre, stated yesterday that they knew nothing about a 60-room hotel.

  5. Had Dr. Rowley been an ordinary citizen, who had been accused by others of high crimes and misdemeanours, he would have had the right to face his accusers, and refute the allegations. When he was accused of the teacup affair, he was given that right.It turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, trumped up charges that did the Opposition more harm than good. Unfortunately for Dr. Rowley, his accusers are members of his own party in the legislature. They therefre have the right to hide behind smoke screens, while a good man is thrown out,without an opportunity to defend himself.

    What a pity that this sad situation befalls the body that creates the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

    As a member of Parliament, Dr. Rowley seems to have less righs than a common criminal. He is at the whims and caprices of one man, who frears him as one waiting in the wings.

  6. Amend the constitution

    Is Hart holding secrets?
    Mark queries Manning’s refusal to probe UDeCOTT

    Mark: Udecott a loose cannon

    Transparency Institute calls for Udecott audit

    Diego Martin West: Let him clear his name
    Keith Rowley’s Diego Martin West executive will initiate moves to PNM’s leadership this week seeking to allow their MP the opportunity to clear his name, the unit confirmed yesterday…

    Saith remains tight-lipped
    Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GP) chairman Dr Lenny Saith is remaining mum about exactly what sacked trade minister Keith Rowley did at the April 14 meeting to deserve firing…

    Browne: UDeCOTT was accountable

    EMA fines Udecott
    THE URBAN Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) is to be fined by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for an administrative breach over its failure to disclose plans to construct a 60-room hotel on the site of the National Academy for the Performing Arts.

  7. Udecott cracks
    RISING CONSTRUCTION prices, labour shortages, equipment problems, cost overruns and apparent procedural irregularities have hit several billion-dollar projects managed by the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott).

    ‘Performing Arts project stopped’
    TV6 News reported last night that the work stoppage may also be linked to a damning report by American firm Genivar, which claimed that SGCI was working with poor material and a faulty plan.

    Rising costs hit PoS academy
    THE RISING cost of local construction materials has hit work at the $360 million Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain, forcing the contractors, Shanghai Construction Group (SCG), to seek materials from the international market.

    Rowley’s firing ‘a cowardly act’
    Chairman of the NAR Tobago Christo Gift is calling on Dr Keith Rowley’s accusers to reveal themselves. In addition, he has characterised the move by Prime Minister Patrick Manning to fire Rowley as Trade and Industry Minister as a backward and cowardly act.

    Rowley calls for Commission of Enquiry into UDeCOTT
    DISMISSED minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday put his political life on the line, promising that if an independent Commission of Enquiry found that all was well with UDeCOTT, he would resign his seat in Parliament and exit public life for good.

    ‘Wear red for Rowley’
    The Diego Martin West constituency is also calling on constituents of Diego Martin West to stand firmly behind dismissed minister Dr Keith Rowley and to wear red today.

    Udecott denies ‘reporting’ Rowley
    THE URBAN Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) has denied that any of its officials had made any complaint that led the Integrity Commission to investigate fired government minister Dr Keith Rowley…

    Ministers mum on Rowley’s sacking
    The Manning administration hoisted a brick “wall” of silence at yesterday’s weekly Whitehall media briefing on the firing of Keith Rowley…

    Saith shies away from row over Rowley’s dismissal

    PNM awaits PM to change Rowley’s seat

    Kangaloo: TV6 misinformed
    TERTIARY Education Minister Christine Kangaloo has denied reports of a slowdown in construction of the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) main campus in Wallerfield.

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