Calder hart, ‘our friend’
ANDRE BAGOO Saturday, September 14 2013
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RESPONSE: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley as he kicked off debate yesterday on the 2013/2014 Budget, in the House of Representatives....
KEITH Rowley apparently has a new friend, and his name is Calder Hart.
In a dramatic about-turn, the Opposition Leader yesterday praised the former Udecott executive chairman who fled to the United States, shortly before the 2012 General Election, and who during the Patrick Manning-led regime, was roundly lambasted by Rowley.
As he kicked off debate on the Budget in the House of Representatives yesterday, Rowley who replaced Manning as PNM leader, following the PNM’s defeat at the general election three years ago, referred to Hart as, “our friend”, adding that the Canadian-born Hart had contributed to the PNM’s Vision 2020 plan for the nation. Rowley said that if the PNM is returned to power, it would implement a new roadmap which he termed, “Vision 2030”.
While Rowley had famously, during the 2010 general election campaign, gone silent on the Udecott issue, the Diego Martin West MP yesterday listed Hart as among those who contributed “meaningfully” to Manning’s Vision 2020 plan of development. Furthermore, Rowley cited controversial Udecott projects overseen by Hart as evidence of PNM contribution to the nation.
At the International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain – ironically built by Udecott – Rowley stated it was he who put together the team which drew up the PNM’s Vision 2020.
“As Minister of Planning and Development, in the second Manning administration of 2002, it was my responsibility to put together the best available talent pool for the purpose of devising a national development plan called Vision 2020,” Rowley said. The PNM political leader listed in full the members of the group he put together. For the field of “finance”, he said the expert chosen was, “our friend Calder Hart.” At this point, Government Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal urged Rowley to quickly move on the list, saying, “Ha! You better move along quick!”
It was a far cry from the days when Hart’s qualifications in finance were brought into question by many including none other than Dr Rowley, during the Uff Commission of Inquiry into Udecott. While on one hand seeking to downplay the legacy of the Udecott fallout, on the other, Rowley accused the current Government of not learning from it.
“How easily they have forgotten any lessons we would have learned from Udecott,” Rowley said. Rowley said under the PNM there were “visible signs of development” and listed as examples, a series of highly controversial Udecott projects overseen by Hart and including the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA); the South Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) – both criticised for design flaws and inadequate consultation – and the “Hyatt Waterfront Hotel”, an apparent reference to the Hyatt Regency and the adjoining International Waterfront Centre, also said to have been over-budget. Rowley was fired by Manning in 2008, after he reportedly raised questions over Udecott. A bitter political battle between both then played out in the glare of the public with Manning launching personal attacks against Rowley in Parliament even famously asking of Rowley, “where the money gone?” and calling Rowley, a “raging bull”. Rowley fired back raising Parliamentary questions against his own PNM government and making critical remarks on Udecott in Parliament, in the press and at the Commission of Inquiry held to examine the public construction sector.
Roberts: Rowley the
Sports Minister Anil Roberts, speaking immediately after Rowley, knocked the Opposition Leader for his contribution stating Rowley was showing signs of becoming Manning. “We finally hear that the member for Diego Martin West has a policy and vision for Trinidad and Tobago that is exactly the same as the member for San Fernando East!” Roberts said.
“It is frightening that every policy of the former prime minister will be the policy of the future if we vote for the member for Diego Martin West to be prime minister.” Roberts further stated, “The new PNM is coming back with the old Calder Hart. The very person who had you fired you bringing back.”
Roberts accused Rowley of confusing the Budget statistics for the level of foreign reserves with that in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. “If you want to be Prime Minister and you don’t understand maths you might go into the HSF and take out $9 billion that was really foreign reserves,” Roberts said.
Rowley was twice admonished by Speaker Wade Mark for his use of un-Parliamentary language. At one stage he called members of the Government, “Philistines”; called the Government “disgusting”; “low” and “corrupt”. “Their dishonesty is boundless,” Rowley said. “They have taken a big bite for themselves and/or their families and their greedy cronies. Some are even choking on the way to the Integrity Commission or to their criminal lawyers’ office.”
Roberts replied by stating Rowley would know about the Integrity Commission from his past experience which included his recent meeting at the private home of Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon, where he (Rowley) had gone “to drink tea”. (See Rowley’s Speech on Page 20A)