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PP defends St Joseph pre-election works but PNM calls for Integrity probe

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The People’s National Movement (PNM) has written to Martin Farrell, registrar of the Integrity Commission, to investigate the conduct of United National Congress (UNC) candidate for St Joseph Ian Alleyne, to determine whether there has been a contravention of the Integrity in Public Life Act. Independent Liberal Party candidate Om Lalla also complained about Alleyne’s conduct during a radio programme on I95FM yesterday.



In a letter to the commission yesterday, PNM general secretary Ashton Ford said while the PNM supports the fair distribution of resources and the “urgent” development of the country, the party was of the firm view that there must be transparency in public procurement and equality of treatment.


Ford said the party was deeply concerned that the delivery of works and projects in St Joseph by Alleyne “was being viciously manipulated ultimately to the detriment of the people, particularily when the works and projects are being done at the very last minute and solely for the purpose of winning an election.”


The letter said these projects, some 25 in all which, according to published accounts, began within the exact period in which Alleyne has been campaigning for the UNC, must have been as a result of a “co-ordinated effort by those in public life whose continued employment in public life would depend upon the success of the UNC at the polls, which could potentially be adversely affected by a loss in the St Joseph by-election.”


In response yesterday, however, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said Alleyne held no “unfair advantage” over the other candidates. Speaking during a Divali function he hosted, Ramlogan said he did not see anything wrong with what Alleyne was doing. He added that he believed it would be “quite wrong if the government stopped work.”


Also addressing the matter yesterday, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh said it was the right of every candidate to request that some state agencies do projects that are needed by the citizenry. 


“I think it is the right of every candidate to request some state agencies to do projects that are needed by the citizenry and Ian Alleyne has done that and there has been a response by the state agency. There is nothing illegal, but what it demonstrates is a proactive, entrepreneurial candidate,” he said while accompanying Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on a walkabout in Bamboo No 1, Valsayn. 



No advantage gained
Asked if it gave Alleyne an unfair advantage, Singh said it was the delivery of the goods and services to the citizenry, to which they are entitled. He said this was the power of incumbency and the unfair advantage does not arise when there is incumbency. “Unfair advantage does not arise when you are a part of a government in power and the government delivers and is supportive of its candidate and the needs of people are being met. And these are legitimate needs.


“So where is there an unfair advantage. The unfairness arises in the failure to provide those people with those services over the years,” he said. 



Minister of Works and Infrastructure Dr Surujrattan Rambachan echoed a similar sentiment in a phone interview. He said Alleyne made representations to him to have projects done in the area, adding if Lalla wanted he could have made representations to him too. He said, however, that work was not only being down in the St Joseph area but throughout the country and was not a political ploy. 


Singh and Rambachan’s comments came as he was asked to comment on Lalla’s claim that Alleyne’s actions were not only improper, but that criminal charges of misbehaviour in public office could possibly be brought against the person/s responsible for giving Alleyne the authority to award state contracts. 


“Not only is it improper to want to award contracts on the eve of an election, but for somebody who is a candidate, who has no attachment to the Government officially to be claiming that he is performing, hiring people, delivering contracts that in itself may amount to misbehaviour in public office for the persons who are giving him the authority to say that,” Lalla was quoted in the media as saying. 



An advertisement endorsing Alleyne’s campaign in Tuesday’s T&T Guardian read, “10 days, 25 projects and one incredible performance.” Independent candidate for St Joseph Errol Fabien, in a phone interview, said he too felt it was a political ploy, but that he was happy that some of the jobs, long outstanding, were being completed for the constituents. Fabien said he was concerned, however, of the claim that state funds were being used in Alleyne’s campaign. 



“Something needs to be done to hold them accountable for it,” he said.



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