PM denies any Integrity in Public Life breach

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PM denies any Integrity in Public Life breach

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has denied reports that he breached the Integrity in Public Life Act in reference to the purchase of a townhouse in Tobago.

He said contrary to reports, he did declare the purchase of his townhouse at Shirvan Development in Tobago to the Integrity Commission.

The Prime Minister took serious issue with an article published in yesterday’s Express and said he has referred the article to his attorneys.

“There is a front page headline which makes, as a statement of fact, that “Rowley in breach”, that the Prime Minister did not disclose (the) purchase (of the townhouse), that I provided ‘false information’ though not ‘knowingly’ and that I received a ‘discount’.

The Prime Minister said there were two Integrity Commission forms- a Form A and a Form B, on which the person in public life is required to make declarations of assets and liabilities.

He said Form A is specific “in that it says where to put ‘townhouse’ and where to put ‘condominium’ and I have been doing what the form instructs. Form B is specific where you put land without building on it. And that is how I have been doing it as per the Form for decades. So as far as I am concerned I am prepared to go before a court and tell the court that I am not in breach, I have never been in breach and the Commission knows it. The oldest property I have is a property in Goodwood Park and for the past 36 years I have been declaring that property every year on Form A”.

He said Form A is the form that is not available to the public, while Form B is the one that the public sees.

“On Form A where you have to put out your properties, in that list it goes further to say ‘townhouse and condominiums’. Form B you have to declare property, but the property you declare there is ‘land without buildings’. As a result of that, if you go and look at my Form B, you will never see how many buildings I own, but you will see any land that I have which doesn’t have buildings on it. Because when you fill out a form, you take instructions from the Form. And if I wasn’t doing it correctly, why did the Integrity Commission not raise it all these years until Saddam Hosein came along. And they are identifying only one of my properties and saying there is a problem, what about all the others (that were filed on Form A but not Form B)?”.

Rowley said “when they started this nonsense I got my lawyer to accompany me to the Integrity Commission’s Office so that they could bring in front of me and show me that they have inside there those Forms A with my declarations; not only of this property (the Tobago townhouse) but all the others. Because as far as I am concerned, I have been filling out the Form as printed and presented to me. And I have never had a query from the Integrity Commission in the past three decades that I have not been declaring properties. Never! But there is a banner headline in today’s Express saying that I am in breach and did not declare the property. What is that? Attempting to hold me up to ridicule.”

He said the Opposition was going to court now to get a writ of mandamus in an attempt to force the Commission to file a complaint against him. “And these are the people who talk about independent institutions. Because they (the institutions) are only independent when they (the Opposition) could use it for politics, but others can’t even pass near where they (the institutions) living (is located),” he said. He said the Integrity Commission conducted an investigation for over a year and a half and concluded that there was no basis to support their (Opposition) “lying” allegations. “But they now going to the court for a writ of mandamus to force the Commission to go against me. Well I wish them well,” he said.

Rowley said: “On the day after this matter first appeared, when Saddam Hosein first made the allegations on the eve of the December 6, 2021 Tobago House of Assembly elections, I called a press conference and I went in front of the media and disclosed my Form A. For the first time in the history of this country, a person in public life presented to the media their Form A. I am the only person to have ever done so. I gave a detailed explanation. The story was printed in all the media, including the Express and TV, that I had disclosed the property on Form A. And I then asked the Integrity Commission ‘what are you going to investigate because you have my Forms’. So even if Saddam Hosein and his political friends have a problem with it, that is one thing. But the Express carried the facts from that earlier press conference. I could go back in the files and find the extensive coverage of that (press conference) in December 2021.”

The Prime Minister said the Express story doesn’t even say that there is some issue with what was the appropriate form for the declaration. “It says that I did not file at all and that is wrong! If I didn’t declare then why am I not being prosecuted? Because you are supposed to declare. So why then are they (IC) concluding that I have done nothing wrong?” he asked, adding that he cooperated fully with the Commission during the investigation.

On the concern that he received a “gift” in the form of a discounted price, the Prime Minister said it was normal practice that when one buys property off the drawings, (before any construction is started), to get at a lower price than if one purchases the property after the construction is complete. “I agreed on a price ($1.2 million), when those townhouses were on paper. By the time they were built and other people came and saw the thing (development) and liked it and wanted to pay more, what does that have to do with me?” he said.

The Prime Minister said Allan Warner, (whose company owns Shirvan Development) was his business partner “from way back when…The farm I have in Tobago, I have 75 per cent, Allan Warner has 25 per cent because both of us like animals and have gotten involved in raising animals in Tobago. So he is selling me a townhouse in a development that he is doing and we agreed on a price and he kept the price…And those (purchases) which came three and four years after and in Block 3 and 4,… by the time the last block was selling, I am (was) told that the price was $1.7 million. What does that have to do with me? I was the first person to have agreed on a price before anything was built and before he (Warner) sold another one (unit).” he said.

The Prime Minister said one of the “permanent Achilles heels” of the UNC and their practitioners is the indelible stain of corruption.

“So what they do is try to say that other people are corrupt and in that way they hope to minimise the effect of the accusations of corruption that are being made against them,” he said, adding, “every single one of their previous allegations against me have fallen flat”.