Rowley: Charles on fishing expedition over purchase of HDC lots

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PM Dr Keith Rowley – Photo courtesy Office of the Parliament

THE Prime Minister accused Naparima MP Rodney Charles of being on a political “fishing expedition,” by posing questions about the policy on the purchase of Housing Development Corporation (HDC) lots and about “a person in your Cabinet.” This happened during prime minister’s questions in the House of Representatives on Monday.

Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial had recently questioned Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings’ ownership of three lots of Caroni land, but he has said they were properly purchased by him and his family.

Charles asked if the Government has changed a policy requiring the HDC’s consent for any proposed transfer of HDC lands by lessees/owners.

Dr Rowley said, “If the member could assist me by pointing to one sentence, one comma, one iota of any document that implies that this has been done, I will try to assist him. Until he can do so, the answer is no! “Pure mischief!”

Charles said, “Is the prime minister therefore stating that persons in his Cabinet whose family acquired HDC lands, did so with HDC approval?”

Rowley replied, “I see the fishing line. I know the fisherman. I don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s on a fishing expedition.

“That question, the answer is no.

“It is not true. It is mischief. We have changed no policy.”

Charles asked if the PM was exonerating a fellow Cabinet member who acquired property but the Speaker disallowed the question.

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked if the PM has instructed the minister of agriculture and Office of the Commissioner of State Lands (COSL) to probe a Special Branch report on a minister occupying three parcels of State land. The PM accused Indarsingh of doubling down on the minister who had denied already wrongdoing.

He said if any law was broken it was a matter for the police who already had the document. He said he does not instruct the police.

Indarsingh asked if the PM has instructed a probe by the COSL. Rowley replied HDC lands were not under the COSL’s oversight. “What is wrong with you all? What have you been eating and drinking that has you so antsy.” Indarsingh retorted, “Nothing is wrong with the Opposition. The Opposition will do its job.”

He also asked if the Special Branch letter was genuine. The PM said the Commissioner of Police has already made a comment which he would not contradict.

Indarsingh asked if the PM had no faith in Special Branch reports. Rowley replied, “Madam Speaker, when that situation arises, you will be the first to know.”