Rowley: PNM consistently solving Trinidad and Tobago’s problems

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to party members and supporters at a PNM sports and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Venessa Mohammed

WITH a general election due in about a year, the Prime Minister is positioning his political party as one which has always solved the problems of TT.

His argument came in an address to thousands of supporters during the PNM sports and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday.

He said one of the issues his administration solved was the rebuilding and revamping of the ground.

PNM ministers Faris Al-Rawi, left, and Rohan Sinanan flex their muscles at a PNM sport and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Venessa Mohammed

“The infrastructure was obsolete. It was outdated. It was uncomfortable but during the last administration, we took a decision not only to maintain or to rebuild but to completely replace the structure that was here in Skinner Park.

“And in a time of significantly reduced revenue, because we prioritised spending taxpayers’ money on taxpayers’ interest, we were able to build this Skinner Park facility during that very difficult period.”

He said it was his administration’s willpower that allowed the completion of the Brian Lara Cricket Academy which is now hosting matches for the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup. He said the previous UNC-led administration did not have such willpower and often made excuses about why the academy could not be completed.

“They said the ground could not hold a cricket pitch because the soil was bad and (former prime minister Patrick) Manning chose the wrong place to build the Brian Lara Academy.

“They said the structures were engineeringly unsound and if they had to be rectified it would cost $200 million. What did the PNM do? After you elected us we went back to that site and we built (finished) it for $80 million.”

Additionally, he said his government commissioned a parliamentary committee to inquire into the $7 billion Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension project.

“On every occasion, we can point to how we have moved our country forward.”

On Saturday, the PNM’s general secretary Foster Cummings said the party opened nominations for candidates to contest the next general election for eight constituencies, all of which are held by the Opposition and some of which are considered marginals.

Chairman Stuart Young, however, said an election date had not yet been set.

On Sunday, during his address in which he made several jabs at the UNC, Rowley asked supporters to begin thinking about who they wanted to run the country.

PNM members take part in novelty events at a a PNM sport and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Venessa Mohammed

“I ask you to standby. Wait for the call, because in the middle of the night, the dawn may not be too far away.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, whenever they are ready – THA (Tobago House of Assembly) election, by-election, general election – we will beat them in the East, we will beat them in the West, we’ll beat them in the North and we’d massacre them in the South.”

Rowley: Ragbir ‘walked with PNM’

As Rowley described all the ways the PNM had moved the country forward, he said there were naysayers who opposed everything at every step of the way.

He said there was pushback against the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax system and even the move toward independence. Most recently, he said, this was demonstrated by the UNC on Friday in the House of Representatives during voting on the Whistleblower Protection Bill except for the support of UNC MP Dr Rai Ragbir.

“You know how it (Whistleblower Bill) was passed? It was passed by the PNM saying ‘We will go it alone if we have to go it alone.’

“But we did not walk alone. A member from Cumuto/Manzanilla (Ragbir) walked with the PNM in the interest of the people of TT.”

Arouca/Maloney MP Camille Robinson-Regis waves at PNM supporters at a PNM sport and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Venessa Mohammed

He accused the opposition members of not supporting the legislation because they were afraid of its implications for their previous actions while in government.

“They are afraid of those who know what they know, that they will talk…and you know that too.”

On Friday, Ragbir was the only opposition MP to support the legislation. After the sitting, Ragbir told Newsday he put the country’s interest, and his conscience, first.

“Well, basically I made a decision having looked at the Whistleblower Bill. I think it is very important at this point in time that we look at the country, we look at crime, and we have to do so collectively.”

Government ministers take part in a tug-of-war at a PNM sport and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Venessa Mohammed

Ragbir was among five MPs who recently challenged the status quo of the UNC as they contested the party’s June 15 national executive election on the United Patriots slate led by Mayaro MP, Rushton Paray. Paray himself fell out of favour with the UNC after he publicly called for internal elections to be held when constitutionally due, though the party maintained there was no decision to postpone it.

The other three dissident UNC MPs are Anita Haynes, Rodney Charles and Dinesh Rambally. Those present in the house on Friday voted against the bill along with the rest of the UNC.