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I did nothing untoward

Published: 
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Sinanan on Spirit radar delivery from US

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan yesterday defended himself against claims by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal that he (Sinanan) acted “improperly and unethically” by travelling from Miami to the Piarco International Airport with a radar system for the limping T&T Spirit.

During yesterday’s sitting of Parliament, where a motion of no-confidence was raised against Sinanan, Moonilal read out a letter dated April 1, 2018 from the Port Authority of T&T (PATT) to the comptroller of Customs and Excise at the Piarco International Airport, advising that Sinanan would be travelling with “a radar system for the T&T Spirit” vessel on Caribbean Airlines flight BW 483, which was scheduled to land on April 1. The letter requested permission for Customs and Excise to clear the part.

PATT asked the comptroller to “transact this matter” on its behalf. PATT also said in the letter that the equipment was a critical replacement for the vessel to resume operations on the inter-island sea bridge.

“Now how you reach there? You bringing back a rear view mirror for your car? You bringing back a radar system and the Minister of Works is bringing in a radar system into T&T?”

Moonilal said, adding this should have been the job of a public servant and not Sinanan.

Moonilal said Sinanan, who holds a diplomatic passport, would have certain immunities according to the Geneva Convention and would not have been searched at the point of entry and exit.

Moonilal questioned who bought the radar system.

“How was it purchased? Did the minister buy it with money from his pocket? A minister ought not to be involved in that way, in purchasing goods and services for a State-enterprise … and a minister that carries a diplomatic passport, it has other implications for going through airports.”

Moonilal said it was “highly improper” and “unethical” for Sinanan to travel with the equipment.

“A minister cannot be dragging bags across airports. You are not a porter. If a ticket holder carries a diplomatic passport, they (immigration) cannot search nothing. You cannot verify what you bring in. This speaks to a minister’s overreach and interference and personal and intimate dealings with a State enterprise.”

In defence, Sinanan later admitted to the T&T Guardian that the PATT had purchased the part in Miami and needed it immediately for the vessel.

At that time, Sinanan said he was in Miami and opted to travel with the part, which would have taken a week to get to Trinidad if sent through a courier service. He said PATT was willing to send someone to collect the part, but in the interest of time he did the needful.

“I wanted to see the boat back up and running so the company, they (PATT) purchased the part from there, they delivered it to me and I brought in.”

He said the T&T Spirit was out of commission for several hours due to the unavailability of the radar system. PATT would have footed the bill for the part, Sinanan said.

“I see nothing improper about it. I did noting untoward.”

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