By Alexander Britell
Dr Keith Rowley is the leader of the opposition People’s National Movement in Trinidad and Tobago and the member of parliament for Diego Martin West, which he has represented since 1991. Rowley, has been a member of three cabinets, as trade minister, housing minister and agriculture minister. Caribbean Journal talked to Rowley about the high-profile Jack Warner controversy, the government’s interaction with CARICOM and the recent cabinet reshuffling by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
What does the handling of the Jack Warner situation say to you about the current government?
It says that the government, led by the prime minister, makes statements and speaks about high principles, but in fact they are prepared to defend the indefensible, and pretend not to know right from wrong, if in doing the right thing their political fortunes might be affected. The government is not prepared to do the right and decent thing. But it is my view that there are more decent people in the country than there are those who would say that the ends justify the means. So we will find out eventually.
What do you think of the decision to replace Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan?
I wouldn’t say that the ministry warranted a change of minister. There are some ministries where you can see where a ministry change was required. I don’t think that was the case in the ministry of energy.
You have called for an investigation into Minister Warner. What is next for Minister Warner and the FIFA controversy?
Mr Warner has a tremendous control over the prime minister, and it’s getting clearer and clearer that the prime minister cannot do the right thing, even though she knows the right thing, because she’s afraid of Mr Warner’s reaction to it. Mr Warner feels that he has a side with the prime minister, and even though the circumstances require a certain action by the prime minister, the prime minister is hostage to a person from whom she can’t maneuver.
What does this scandal mean for Caribbean football generally?
I don’t see any problem for Caribbean football. I think the playing of football and the management of football is much bigger than one man. Mr Warner was a major official in Caribbean football, but if he had resigned it would have gone on.
Last year, the prime minister made some controversial comments about being the “ATM card” for the rest of the Caribbean. How would you describe the government’s interaction with CARICOM?
The last thing she did was refuse to go to a very important head of governments retreat, where certain matters had been discussed in preparation for this weekend’s meeting in St Kitts. She chose to stay in Trinidad and party and politick on the anniversary of her government’s one year in office — which was a totally insignificant event for her. It was more important for her to have a political event of a party nature than to do the job of a prime minister. There was a CARICOM meeting and nobody from Trinidad and Tobago was there representing our country at that meeting. I think it was a dereliction of duty on the part of the prime minister.
Do you have a position on the issue of [airline] REDjet?
I don’t have a particular position. I’m very happy that somebody is taking the question of safety and sustainability into account. An airline is a major matte, and I would want to be sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before we allow anybody to come in. The Caribbean airline industry needs competition, and we need more serves, and more affordable services, and if that’s what REDjet is trying to provide, more power to them and welcome. On the other hand, if somebody is coming in with a couple of antiquated planes, and people who couldn’t be concerned about their safety, then I would be concerned. So I’m happy we’re moving slowly with this and being sure everything is safe.