Hazel Manning, widow of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, and former Housing Minister Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde have criticised Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for the comments he made on Saturday about the Vieux Fort Housing project in St James. Dr Rowley claimed the project had fallen prey to politics after Manning launched an investigation into missing money.
Yesterday, both women insisted that Manning would never have stopped any project that would have benefited citizens.
Mrs Manning, in a letter to the media, quoted her late husband saying: “Facts are stubborn things. They are very hard to go away.”
She said she had just returned home from Costa Rica and was “stopped short by headlines full of acrimony and blame about Vieux Fort Housing Development, St James, in particular, articles arguing that based on reports from a Cabinet colleague about another project, Prime Minister Patrick Manning stopped the Vieux Fort Project.”
Mrs Manning said it was her responsibility “to reply on Patrick’s behalf” to allegations made by Rowley about the project.
Speaking on Saturday at a Housing Development Corporation distribution ceremony for Vieux Fort, Dr Rowley recalled a public spat with Manning which he said had the result of depriving citizens of housing. He said he had carried the burden for a long time and had specifically asked Housing Minister Randall Mitchell to ensure that he was invited to the distribution ceremony.
The project was started in 2006 when Rowley was the Minister of Housing and he said it “fell prey to our own politics in the PNM.”
In response to Rowley’s claims, Mrs Manning called on those with the information to “connect the dots” for her.
“What is the true story of the discrepancy that surrounds the $10 million dollars, at the Cleaver Heights Project, Arima? What was said in the Parliament to cause Patrick to ask such a question? Who can connect the dots for me between the $10 million dollars and Vieux Fort, which did not add up in my mind?” she asked.
Mrs Manning urged the HDC to provide the public with facts about the projects and the length of time it took to undertake a new detailed planning and design exercise, when new design consultants hired, new tenders issued and the new revised completion date reached.
The wife of the former Prime Minister added: “I can say without fear of contradiction that Patrick would never stop a project in the manner outlined in the media. It was not in his nature.”
Dick-Forde said she fully supports Mrs Manning’s defence of the former Prime Minister. She said she was “not sure how to comment on such a far-fetched accusation” involving what she said was one of the “badly planned and poorly implemented projects that I found when I was given the housing portfolio in 2007.”
The former minister, an accounting academic and a certified accountant with expertise in corporate governance and social responsibility, said she used all of her knowledge, training and experience to help fix the institutions under the portfolio assigned to her.
Political analyst Dr Winford James said it is not normal for a political leader of the PNM to criticise a predecessor. He wondered whether Rowley’s criticism of Manning is an indication that things are so stressful to him now that “he has taken a direction that is un-PNM-like.”
James said what Dr Rowley did “represents a kind of desperation on his part because he is not as popular as he once was and I don’t know if he is doing that to gain popularity, to gain likeability.”
“I am wondering what would it benefit him to go out on a limb to do something as risky as that,” he said.
James said Dr Rowley runs the risk of alienating people in the party.
Rowley was fired from Manning’s Cabinet in April 2008 after he was accused of “wajang” behaviour at a meeting of the Finance and General Purpose Committee. Mr Manning died on July 2nd 2016.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)