PM: Media trying to pin Marlene's 'misdeeds' on me

Even as he fumed at the me­dia for “try­ing to pin” Mar­lene Mc­Don­ald’s cor­rup­tion scan­dal on him, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley on Thursday ad­mit­ted that he ex­er­cised flawed judg­ment by re­in­stat­ing her as a Cab­i­net min­is­ter de­spite the trail of al­le­ga­tions that dogged her.

Row­ley faced the me­dia yes­ter­day for the first time since Mc­Don­ald was ar­rest­ed at her Mara­cas, St Joseph home last Thurs­day. She has been charged with sev­en of­fences of cor­rup­tion, fraud and mis­be­hav­iour in pub­lic of­fice and is now home on $2 mil­lion bail.

 

Mc­Don­ald and her com­mon-law-hus­band, Michael Carew, are among five peo­ple who have been ac­cused of al­leged­ly con­spir­ing, over 10 years be­gin­ning in 2007, to mis­use State funds. The mon­ey was dis­bursed to three NGOs, Cal­abar Foun­da­tion, Wa­ter­wheel Foun­da­tion and Prov­i­dent Foun­da­tion from the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment —a min­istry Mc­Don­ald once head­ed. Carew was a di­rec­tor of Cal­abar.

Speak­ing to re­porters dur­ing the post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre yes­ter­day, Row­ley was asked whether —in the end—he made a “bad judg­ment call” by re­turn­ing her to the Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion min­istry in 2018 de­spite an on­go­ing po­lice probe in­to the Cal­abar Foun­da­tion mat­ter.

“In hind­sight, I would say yes. But at the time I could on­ly work with the in­for­ma­tion I had,” he said.

“If what you’re ask­ing me is if I knew then what I know now if I would have made that de­ci­sion —the an­swer is no, I would not.”

Row­ley said he read “with great in­ter­est” the list of charges laid against the five co-ac­cused since there is “so much that was nev­er part of this be­fore” when he had to con­tem­plate whether to re­tain her in Cab­i­net.

“But you (the me­dia) don’t make that dis­tinc­tion,” he chid­ed re­porters, “be­cause you have con­vert­ed the sub­ject, not to one about per­sons who have done things wrong and run afoul of the law and are now in the hands of the po­lice. Your main in­ter­est is to see if you could pin this to the prime min­is­ter.

“I wish you luck,” he said with a nod. He end­ed the press con­fer­ence there.

He al­so de­nied spec­u­la­tion that “po­lit­i­cal fac­tors”—such as her re­la­tion­ships with cer­tain res­i­dents in Port-of-Spain South —in­flu­enced his de­ci­sion to keep her in Cab­i­net.

“If there are costs to be paid, then we pay it and move on. If we lose a can­di­date in Port-of-Spain South, we find an­oth­er one,” he said.

Row­ley said he has spo­ken to Mc­Don­ald once over the last week to in­form her she would lose her Cab­i­net and PNM po­si­tions.

Some com­men­ta­tors in­clud­ing for­mer head of the Pub­lic Ser­vice, Regi­nald Du­mas, have called for Mc­Don­ald to step down as the mem­ber of par­lia­ment for Port-of-Spain South.

“Is there a va­can­cy in Port-of-Spain South now?” Row­ley quipped yes­ter­day when asked whether there will be a by-elec­tion in the con­stituen­cy. “Let’s not jump the gun, that has not hap­pened. I do not know that that is hap­pen­ing.”

Pressed on whether he could ex­er­cise his role as PNM po­lit­i­cal leader and ask Mc­Don­ald to re­sign as MP, he in­sist­ed he had ex­er­cised his dis­cre­tion in the mat­ter where he could.

Reporter: Faine Richards

 

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