Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. Photo: Azlan Mohammed
By Sue-Ann Wayow
A RECUSAL request from Cabinet by a Cabinet minister was part of the normal operations of Cabinet.
And recusal does not mean an individual was involved in illegal activity.
This is according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who said he had recused himself twice before in the past from Cabinet when his daughters won national scholarships.
He was speaking during a People’s National Movement meeting was held in the constituency of Chaguanas East on Monday evening.
On Saturday, the Express newspaper published an article stating that Minister of National Security Stuart Young recused himself more than 50 times from Cabinet and the United National Congress (UNC) said this indicated that Young and his family benefited from State contracts.
Young held a press conference on Sunday to deny the allegations and also defended his father and brother regarding statements made by UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Rowley said, “Cabinet meets once a week. In the normal scheme of things, they meet every Thursday. If you are a Cabinet member, Cabinet notes come around the table to be dealt with for decision making. If there is any decision there to be made, whether you are a beneficiary or a family or any close person that you are associated with would benefit from the decision, it requires that you let that be known to the Cabinet. That’s the first thing you have to do. To indicate that ‘I have a conflict here in my wife, in my son-in-law in my brother-in-law in my child,’ you identify that to your colleagues in the Cabinet.”
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He said: “To not do so is illegal. And having identified that there is a conflict, you then recuse yourself. You cannot take part in the discussion or the decision. The rest of the Cabinet will handle that matter. So when somebody recuses himself, how does that become an illegal act to be on the front page of the Express newspaper counting the number of times you recuse yourself and therefore you are corrupt?”
Rowley said on a normal day in Cabinet, approximately 100 notes might be brought for discussion and approval and only when a particular note that involved a minister was brought forward, then the minister would recuse himself or herself until discussions were over.
“The recusal is part of the operations of the Cabinet,” he said.
Rowley said: “Under this government in our five-year-period, we dealt with 9,200 notes. On 54 of those occasions, a minister had to recuse himself because mainly, he has a brother who is working in a bank. He took the position that every time that bank name is mentioned in a Cabinet note to participate in the bidding process, he is going to recuse himself, that bank ended up with three per cent of the business of the Ministry of Finance.”
The PNM leader also said because of Attorney General’s Faris Al-Rawi’s family was involvement in real estate, he had to recuse himself from several Cabinet decisions and between him and Young, they had to recuse themselves 94 times out of over 9,000 times notes were brought to Cabinet.
And he said the UNC had 14000 Cabinet notes “and the one thing that was not happening there was the recusal that they are making an issue out of now.”