Sunday, November 4, 2012

Guest commentary: Rowley must resign - by Leslie Mouttet

"The Parliament Library is a public place. That report was laid in the Parliament Library. I can't remember, but I am sure that report was laid in Parliament, but nobody paid any attention to it because it did not give them the facts that they were looking for."

I read an interesting and lengthy Andre Bagoo Newsday article which ended with the above quote. The person who uttered the quote is none other than Dr Keith Rowley and the caption of the article is "Udecott’s behind Land Date scandal" (the article is viewable online at ",168757.html"). 

In my view, what Andre Bagoo wrote is required reading for all students of current affairs, for it gives an entirely different perspective the public has had concerning a chapter in the life of Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley, almost as if said perspective falls within the ambit of the recently-witnessed makeover of the goodly gentleman.

It is purely coincidental and or fortuitous that, not too long ago, I had been reading up on the Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction of the Scarborough Hospital and the Removal of Materials to the Land Date Housing Project, in order to pen a commentary for submission to the general public, through your medium. Perforce, it consumes a bit of space. I pray, nonetheless, you deem it worthy of being accorded some extra priviledge, given the topic. In that frame of mind, I now submit the following:

Instead of focusing on answering the many questions raised about him by the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction of the Scarborough Hospital and the Removal of Materials to the Land Date Housing Project, Dr. Keith Rowley has been spending his time continuously and vehemently attacking the Prime Minister and her Cabinet over issues which would never have happened hadn't he dropped the ball.

Land Date Project, if you recall, was a private development project undertaken on lands owned by the Rowleys at Mason Hall, Tobago. The project was undertaken at the same time the taxpayer-funded Scarborough Hospital Project was in progress. The works at the Hospital began in April 2003 and the contractor was NH International (Caribbean) Limited, the same contractor which was actually doing the works at Land date.

Allegations surfaced in October 2004 that materials and equipment were being unlawfully transferred from the Hospital Site to Land Date, which led to a Commission of Enquiry being established over the protests of the government and Dr. Rowley, who was at the time a Cabinet Minister. 

The public needs to be reminded Dr. Rowley is yet to give satisfactory explanation of several damning findings the Land Date Commission of Enquiry made against him, for instance:

On page 12 of the Commission’s Report, the Commissioners, led by Justice Annestine Sealey, said that three named “transport contractors…would on instruction…load their respective trucks…with materials. Almost on a daily basis and remove them to the Land Date Development at Mason Hall, Tobago.”
The Commission on the same page declared that “neither the removal of materials in this fashion nor the system were ever disputed or contested”.) In other words, Dr. Rowley conceded that thousands of dollars worth of materials were removed from Scarborough Hospital Site every day and transported to Land Date.)

We do not know the exact value of the items removed to Land Date, because on pages 19 and 20 of its Report, the Commission bemoans its inability to pinpoint a figure this way:

“The Commission finds itself bereft of evidence of the total amount of material and its worth which were (sic) removed from the Scarborough Hospital Site, as most of the delivery slips, bills of lading and order slips relating to the removal of such materials removed are in the possession of the Integrity Commission. An attempt by this Commission to verify these deficiencies was met by a submission from Counsel for Dr. Rowley.”

Why would Dr Rowley's attorney resist, if his client didn’t have something to hide?
Strangely enough, on page 26 of the Report, the Commissioners reported that Dr. Rowley “denied he had ever given anyone any instructions as to the (Land Date) development project”, even while he was admitting to being “in Tobago at least every fortnight and (visiting) the site and (reporting) the progress to his wife” and even while giving evidence from the witness stand that he did have “beneficial interest in the said property”.

Also, on page 20 the Commissioners found, on a point of law, that none of the material delivered to the Scarborough Hospital Site to be utilized for the hospital project belonged to the contractor who was actually undertaking the Land date development for the Rowleys. The Commission also declared “the removal of (materials) to the Land date Development was pure subterfuge.”

On page 18, they had already rejected the argument put forward by NHIC: that “the reason the materials were kept at the (Hospital) Project Site was because of lack of security on the Land date Development, (since NHIC) in cross-examination, …admitted that security for Land date was supplied by a (security company)…and there was a watchman on site…(so there was no) need for the storage of (Land Date) materials on the (Hospital) Project".

Furthermore, on page 18, the Commission found as a fact that “the removal of materials…to the Land date Development can be verified by the documents submitted by (the Rowleys’ own contractor as evidence in the Enquiry)."

Why didn’t he resign the instant the CoE discovered and announced there was a paper trail from the Scarborough Hospital straight to Land Date? What claim to personal integrity can he have, seeing that, up to now, he hasn’t cleared himself of that link?

Yet he continues to portray himself as an original or factory-refurbished paragon of virtue, thus entitled to pronounce on others who have done no wrong.
Perhaps the most damning indictment against Dr. Rowley is that the CoE found as a matter of law that every act of removing material from the Scarborough Hospital Site to Land Date could be considered a criminal act of larceny! 

For, on page 30, under the rubric "Observations and Recommendations", Justice Annestine Sealey and her fellow Commissioners proposed "that from the testimony of the witnesses…and the exhibits, that (sic) the appropriate authorities should visit the provisions of Sections 2, 3, 4 and 21 of the Larceny Act Ch. 11.12 with a view to addressing the illegal act (if so found by them) committed by NHIC by the removal of NIPDEC’s materials from the Scarborough Hospital site to the Land Date Development Project." 

The upholder is worse than the thief. Since he has beneficial interest in Land date, it means he benefitted from highly questionable acts. Being a self-proclaimed "Mr. Clean", why didn’t he resign over the inescapable stain on his character?

All told, the CoE found that Dr. Rowley displayed a total lack of discretion in the way he dealt with Land Date, given that he simultaneously held the post of Government Minister and held “beneficial interest” in Land Date. It so said on page 29, as follows:

"The Commission is of the view that having regard to his ministerial position, whatever part Dr. Rowley played, it displayed a total lack of discretion and the Commission advises that he should be more sanguine in his relations in matters concerning the development of the project as further issues of impropriety may be raised especially because he had a beneficial interest to which he has admitted."

One cannot get a more stinging rebuke than that. Yet, he’s calling on Jack Warner, Anand Ramlogan and others in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government to resign for lacking discretion.

Finally, Emile Elias, in a Ria Taitt interview published in the Newsday on October 16th 2004, confessed that he and Dr. Rowley were good friends. The link to that Newday story is:,0,22598.html

Dr. Rowley therefore needs to explain to his good friend why he didn’t hire him for the Land Date job in the first place, seeing that Elias was a well-established building contractor and had agreed to undertake the Land Date project at less than two-thirds the price the Rowleys were paying Warner Construction and Sanitation Limited. The Commission report gives the precise figures on page 27 as follows:

"3) Sharon Rowley entered into a contract with Warner Construction and Sanitation Limited (Warner) on the 22nd day of September 2003 for the infrastructure works at a cost of $2,361,190.00.

"4) On the 23rd September 2003 Warner invited NHIC to review the plan and design…and to submit a Bill of Quantities and an offer to effect the said infrastructure works contracted to Warner. On the 25th September 2003, NHIC submitted an offer of $1,525,267.00 wich was accepted by Warner."
Good Lord! That’s some $835,923.00 less than the price agreed between the Rowleys and Warner Construction! Immediately one has to ask if Warner Construction were better friends than Elias? Or whether Dr. Rowley planned to dock his wife, Sharon, some $800,000? 

In asking such questions, we mustn’t forget Dr. Rowley tried to convince the CoE that his wife was the real owner of the Land Date property! We must also take note that, from all available records, Emile Elias is never a man who takes a contract at a price below the lowest bid.

I made the last point since, if we go through the same Report, we’d see it mentions eight projects in all on which NHIC bid. For the Commission was also established to review all contracts made to NH International (Caribbean) Limited from 2002 to the date the Commission was put in place. Land Date is one of those projects, the Scarborough Hospital is another. The following enumerates all eight projects and the cost-comparisons of all:

click on chart to read details in a larger window
Clearly, something is very odd about the Land Date Project –what’s so special about it that would make Emile Elias, friend of Dr. Rowley, abandon his normal pricing practice? 

On behalf of the public who are still waiting on the answers, I therefore publicly call on Dr. Rowley to make a clean breast of everything. He must do so today, not tomorrow, for tomorrow may be too late, or never come. Maybe afterwards, people would take him seriously. The best way for him to begin would be by immediately resigning from public office and allowing someone who has nothing to hide to take his place.

Meantime, I’m not holding my breath.

Mouttet, Leslie |St Lucien Road, Diego Martin, Trinidad

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
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