PORT-OF-SPAIN – PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley says the charging of his former minister of public administration is not a crisis but the sign of a strong government crafting “a new society.”
He made this comment at the post-cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St. Ann’s on Thursday.
The Prime Minister said, “The system is working. That’s why the police could have acted without let or hindrance. It is not a crisis. It is a ray of hope.
“For the first time we are dealing with matters that were insoluble in the society. Trust my judgement. You will be backing a good horse.”
Rowley sought to make it clear that he knew nothing about the events leading to the arrest and subsequent charging of McDonald and four others on corruption charges.
He said, “Your main interest is to see if you could pin this to the Prime Minister. I wish you luck.”
The Prime Minister said he first learnt about the arrest of McDonald and others via a WhatsApp message on someone else’s phone on Thursday.
Rowley said, “Here I was, head of the Cabinet, head of the National Security Council, and I am being fed information from somebody’s WhatsApp that a member of the Cabinet is in police custody, for what I don’t know.”
He said, “And this happened on Thursday and I am in Tobago. I said on Thursday from Tobago that if this turns out to warrant an action by the Prime Minister I will not hesitate to act.”
Rowley added, “What exactly do you want me to do? You want me to act without knowing what is involved. You, people of the media might have a little more freedom than I have in this situation.
“If I had picked up my phone and called the Commissioner of Police or called the officer who was supposed to be doing it, if I called any of them I know what I will be exposed to allegations of interfering in a police investigation or attempting to influence it.
“I’ve seen it written by you in the media. The very fact that Patrick Manning called a police station to find out if his driver was arrested.
“I saw senior reporters writing in the papers that because he was Prime Minister, the very fact that he called the station could influence the police to let go the man.
“And you would have done that on Thursday or Friday if I had interfered by asking the Police or the DPP’s office what this is about.”
Rowley pointed out that McDonald had been accused of matters under the Patrick Manning regime when he was not a member of the cabinet.
He said he spoke to McDonald on the corruption allegations surrounding the Calabar Foundation and she said she was innocent.
Rowley said only on Sunday he heard McDonald was to be charged, and the next day he fired her from Cabinet and as PNM deputy leader.
He said the law must now take its course.
“Feel good about it. That’s the way it is supposed to happen,” he added.
Rowley said under his tenure as prime minister, the police had built their capacity to pursue white-collar crime, which did not exist before.
He said, “Corruption will not be a way of life. All who thought there was no hope, this is more than hope.”
Rowley said people would have preferred allegations to be made about him, but failing that, the next best thing was to try to blame him for poor judgment over McDonald.
He claimed the media had forgotten the failings of UNC politicians such as Anand Ramlogan and Dhanraj Singh.