Govt cautious after Marlene’s arrest

Si­lence from Gov­ern­ment mem­bers and con­cern from PNM’s Port-of-Spain South con­stituen­cy ex­ec­u­tive in the wake of the ar­rest of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion Min­is­ter Mar­lene Mc­Don­ald on Thurs­day.

But there are al­so Op­po­si­tion de­mands for Prime Min­is­ter Kei­th Row­ley to speak about Mc­Don­ald’s ar­rest yes­ter­day.

 

Mc­Don­ald and her hus­band were tak­en in­to cus­tody and were be­ing ques­tioned last night for al­leged cor­rup­tion of­fences.

Sources said it in­volved the Cal­abar Foun­da­tion re­gard­ing which the Po­lice’s Fraud Squad had been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mc­Don­ald since 2016 af­ter a com­plaint by Fix­in' T&T.

Po­lice told Guardian Me­dia at the start of the year the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was still open but was ex­pect­ed to be closed “soon.”

Af­ter word broke ear­ly yes­ter­day, Gov­ern­ment on­ly of­fi­cial­ly ac­knowl­edged the sit­u­a­tion via a state­ment is­sued at 2.52 pm from Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Don­na Cox. This re­ferred to a search war­rant ex­e­cut­ed at Mc­Don­ald’s Mara­cas, St Joseph home and an “on­go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The Po­lice Ser­vice at 3.07 pm sub­se­quent­ly con­firmed ar­rest of Mc­Don­ald and her hus­band.

Pri­or to Gov­ern­ment’s state­ment, Cox told Guardian Me­dia that Cab­i­net had not held its week­ly meet­ing on Thurs­day and there would be no post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing.

She said Row­ley was in To­ba­go. She added she had word there would be no Cab­i­net meet­ing ear­li­er in the week and it wasn’t be­cause of Mc­Don­ald’s is­sue.

Cox said that all she knew was, po­lice had ex­e­cut­ed a war­rant. She couldn’t state what ef­fect it would have on Gov­ern­ment “...un­til we get the facts.”

When Guardian Me­dia phoned Mc­Don­ald ear­ly Thurs­day morn­ing, she an­swered but didn’t re­ply on whether she was be­ing de­tained/charged/ques­tioned. She said she would call back. Mc­Don­ald sound­ed calm but slight­ly sur­prised at the call.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials said Row­ley, on va­ca­tion in To­ba­go, was aware of the sit­u­a­tion and would let due process take its course be­fore he act­ed. But they said Row­ley was “dis­ap­point­ed.”

Row­ley ap­point­ed Mc­Don­ald, a deputy po­lit­i­cal leader of the PNM, a Min­is­ter three times in the four-year term, fir­ing her twice due to al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct.

Af­ter the last ap­point­ment in 2018, Row­ley was asked in Par­lia­ment if he re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from the In­tegri­ty Com­mis­sion and/or Fraud Squad clear­ing Mc­Don­ald. Row­ley stat­ed that on­ly he could ap­point mem­bers to Cab­i­net and those ap­point­ments “aren’t de­pen­dent on any let­ter from the In­tegri­ty Com­mis­sion.” He didn’t com­ment on the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Yes­ter­day the Op­po­si­tion UNC stat­ed, “We await the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. We live in a coun­try where the rule of law ob­tains, and every cit­i­zen’s en­ti­tled to due process, jus­tice and fair play. How­ev­er, the fact that a sit­ting PNM Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter is un­der ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion over claims of mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic funds and is be­ing ques­tioned by the po­lice, is alarm­ing.”

“Cit­i­zens who elect­ed this gov­ern­ment de­served to have the Prime Min­is­ter, at least, make an im­me­di­ate state­ment on this se­ri­ous mat­ter. But once again Dr Kei­th Row­ley’s poor lead­er­ship is high­light­ed giv­en that he has on two oc­ca­sions, re­moved Ms. Mc­Don­ald, and re-in­stat­ed her in Cab­i­net. Up to this time, the Prime Min­is­ter hasn’t made any state­ment on this very se­ri­ous mat­ter—he re­mains miss­ing in ac­tion.”

UNC MP Roodal Mooni­lal added, “It’s deeply dis­turb­ing that a Cab­i­net min­is­ter finds her­self in this predica­ment but the law must take its course. This speaks again to the poor judg­ment of PM Row­ley and his ar­ro­gance. He must speak on this mat­ter ur­gent­ly as he did about (UNC Ma­yaro cor­po­ra­tion chair­man) Glen Ram.” Row­ley had called for the UNC to re­move Ram from of­fice af­ter the coun­cil­lor was charged with so­lic­it­ing a $1,500 bribe.

Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh con­firmed he had reached out to Mc­Don­ald pri­vate­ly and Plan­ning Min­is­ter Camille Robin­son-Reg­is said she “couldn’t say any­thing.”

PNM Port-of-Spain South con­stituen­cy sec­re­tary Ronon Cal­len­dar said, “Con­stituents are con­cerned. We haven’t spo­ken to the MP yet and can’t com­ment. We’re await­ing the facts.”

Reporter: Gail Alexander

 
 
 
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