OWN IT, KEITH: Former minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh during the UNC’s weekly Sunday press conference at the Office of the Opposition Leader in Port of Spain where he called on the Prime Minister to take full ownership of the arms dealer “abduction” fiasco. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –
EVEN as the State has appealed a high court ruling in which the judge slammed the police for the “abduction” in Barbados of firearms dealer Brent Thomas, former UNC minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh has called on the Prime Minister to “take ownership” of the incident.
Speaking at the UNC’s weekly Sunday press briefing in Port of Spain, Gopeesingh said Dr Rowley should seek to immediately rectify this matter “instead of running away from TT at such a critical state of the country’s management.”
Rowley was in Barbados this weekend, among other things, playing golf, during a mini-vacation.
“It has the effect of seriously compromising what many may say is an unstable democracy where due process of the rule of law is supposed to be of the utmost importance.
“If the PM cannot handle his duties, he should do the honourable thing and call a general election,” Gopeesingh said.
Last year, Thomas was held in Barbados, put on a plane and flown back to Trinidad, where he was wanted for possession and selling of prohibited firearms.
The High Court later ruled that the extradition constituted an abduction, and Thomas’ constitutional rights had been breached. All charges against Thomas were ordered stayed.
Gopeesingh charged that the government’s handling of this affair “stinks at the highest levels.”
The former education minister said his UNC colleagues, including Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, would speak more on the issue at the party’s weekly Monday Night Report.
Rowley last week distanced himself and the Cabinet from any involvement in the Thomas affair, and said his trip to Barbados was not to do any damage control over it but was a mini-vacation that had been planned some time earlier.
Gopeesingh also cited a newspaper report over the weekend which claimed Government had paid over $1billion in attorneys’ fees over the eight years it has been in power.
He said when the PNM was elected in 2015, it accused the previous UNC-led administration of paying hefty legal fees to attorneys. “But look, it has come back to haunt the PNM.”
He claimed that under this government, political persecution which was remedied by the victims in the courts had ended up costing taxpayers billions of dollars in court-ordered damages and costs.
He believes the Thomas fiasco will eventually cost taxpayers “a tidy sum in the millions of dollars.”
On hefty fees to attorneys, Gopeesingh said: “It is an abuse of process, blatant nepotism and possibly violates our international integrity in public life laws along with other laws regulating conflict of interest.
“This warrants an immediate probe by an independent authority. It must be stopped because it is robbing taxpayers of their money which can be used to develop the country’s infrastructure, provide food for people, send children to school, create employment and provide critical services in health and education etc.”
On the covid19 front, Gopeesingh noted the WHO last Friday declared the pandemic over, but he warned that the virus still poses a significant health threat.
Gopeesingh said the Government and the Health Ministry must urgently inform the population of what medical management policies and programmes they have implemented or plan to implement to deal with covid post-pandemic.