Port of Spain, Trinidad (CMC) — Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says he is prepared to go to jail rather than comply with a request from the Integrity Commission that he submit documents within 14 days relating to a matter dating back to 2004.
Rowley, addressing supporters at a public meeting in San Fernando, south of here on Sunday night, questioned the decision of the Integrity Commission to seek clarification on documents that had been the subject of a High Court ruling and also coming in the height of a campaign for the September 7 general election.
He said it was also interesting that that Integrity Commission, chaired by retired justice Zainool Hosein, had written him the letter soon after he publicly criticised the Commission and warned that it would be reformed if his People’s National Movement (PNM) wins the general election.
“So they don’t have information about the TT$400 million (One TT dollar)….for the Beetham water treatment plant, but they have enough time and information to go and ask me some stupidness about something I can’t understand or something that happened 11 years ago.”
Rowley said it was also strange that the Commission could not provide information on matters involving present and former ministers of the present government, “but they could tell me they giving me 14 days to respond and if I don’t respond they will put my name in the Gazette and then they will proceed to take me to the High Court.
“Well let me tell Mr Zainool Hosein something this evening. It is Sir Alexander Bustamante who said if a politician hasn’t been to jail he hasn’t been all over the country and if I have to go to jail as a result of not responding to you in 14 days, come I ready to go.”
Rowley made it clear that “between now and September 7 I am busy with the people’s business. I am busy putting this government out of office and if that question could have waited for 11 years it could wait for 11 weeks.”
Rowley said he could simply respond to the request by indicating he has no idea what the Commission needs because the project in question is one being undertaken by his wife
“Under the law I am required to report to the Integrity Commission my wife’s business only in so far as it is known to me. So all I have to tell them my wife didn’t tell me that,” he said.
“So what is all this, they find that the country is not sufficiently disruptive, we are not sufficiently in a situation where our institutions have lost public respect,” he said, telling supporters “it is my view that the letter I received last Wednesday was backdated because I refuse to accept that it just so happens that I am speaking about this matter on Saturday and a letter written on Tuesday and dated the Thursday…”.
In the letter, the Commission said it had examined Rowley’s declaration of income, assets and liabilities “for the year 2004 and foun that additional information is required to assist in this examination.
“You are requested to provide written information relative to your 2004 Declaration of Income, asets and Liabilities on the area stated on Appendix A attached”.
Rowley said that appendix mentioned the Forest Hills Project that had been the subject of a High Court matter and for which he was paid a significant amount of money after the High Court ruled against the Commission.
He told supporters “the text of the letter doesn’t even make sense. I am trying to understand what the hell they are asking me here, but the threat is very real.
“A threat that if I don’t answer in 14 days. I want to say to the chairman of the Integrity Commission you should have left that Commission 14 months or 14 weeks ago because you are acting in conflict and if this country was serious…where (Commission) deputy Justice Sebastian Ventour left that Commission and said what he said, none of them would have stayed there and playing they want to question my integrity.
“Mr Hosein you cannot question my integrity because you have none,” he added.