PM: Local election date soon

"Soon," was Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley's re­sponse to re­porters yes­ter­day when they asked him when the date for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment elec­tions will be an­nounced.

Row­ley the re­ply at a me­dia con­fer­ence about his re­cent trip to the Unit­ed States. Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment polls are con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly due be­tween No­vem­ber and ear­ly Feb­ru­ary. PNM of­fi­cials have pro­ject­ed that the elec­tion will be held lat­er this year since Car­ni­val 2020 takes place ear­ly next year.


Com­ment­ing on Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar's calls for an­swers on Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert's in­ter­est in a pri­vate hous­ing project, Row­ley said he wasn't "braks­ing for no­body" but she had to make spe­cif­ic al­le­ga­tions of wrong-do­ing and then he could look at it. He said she won't get his "guid­ance" on the mat­ter with­out that.

"I'm not deal­ing with 'ifs'," he added.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar raised the hous­ing mat­ter re­cent­ly, claim­ing Im­bert owned the prop­er­ty. She asked if he had de­clared his in­ter­est in it when he sat in Cab­i­net and when he re­cent­ly pro­posed a Fi­nance Bill which sought to ex­empt mul­ti-fam­i­ly dwellings from tax.

The Op­po­si­tion Leader said Im­bert hadn't de­clared any such in­ter­est when he pi­lot­ed the bill in Par­lia­ment in Ju­ly. Im­bert has re­mained mum since her al­le­ga­tions were raised two weeks ago.

Row­ley said Per­sad-Bisses­sar was "des­per­ate­ly look­ing for a PNM scan­dal." He added that when the Bill was brought up, Gov­ern­ment had jok­ing­ly re­ferred to it as the Ram­bachan Bill since UNC MP Su­ruj Ram­bachan was known to be a builder.

He said Per­sad-Bisses­sar had seen no is­sue there. He added that he wouldn't be drawn down any "rab­bit hole" by every bit of UNC in­for­ma­tion.

"They must say specif­i­cal­ly what the wrong-do­ing is, then we'll deal with it," he said, adding that if he re­quired any in­for­ma­tion on any min­is­ter's con­duct, he would do so.

On Per­sad-Bisses­sar's re­cent si­lence fol­low­ing his rev­e­la­tion that she tipped off PNM's Mar­lene Mc­Don­ald that po­lice were go­ing to ar­rest her, Row­ley grinned broad­ly. He then re­lat­ed—say­ing he had once looked af­ter yard fowl—how chick­ens get "pip" on their tongue, pre­vent­ing them from cluck­ing.

In­ter­net sites state "pip" is the for­ma­tion of a hard scale at the end of the tongue of a bird caused by res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­tress. This leaves the bird breath­ing through the mouth, caus­ing the tip of the tongue to dry out and even­tu­al­ly black­en. Left un­treat­ed, the bird dies.

Row­ley al­so de­fend­ed the can­cel­la­tion of the US$71m hous­ing project agree­ment with Chi­na Gezhou­ba Group. He said while Cab­i­net, with over­sight, ap­proved the frame­work agree­ment, the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (HDC) went on with the is­sue and lat­er prob­lems were dis­cov­ered.

He said Cab­i­net had even re­viewed its po­si­tion on as­pects of the mat­ter, such as the HDC sell­ing all the units. It was al­so found that the HDC took too long with pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ship moves. He said it might be that- the mat­ter will be "more fa­cil­i­ta­to­ry "for lo­cal con­trac­tors.

Row­ley de­fend­ed HDC chair­man New­man George's ap­point­ment as Paria Fu­el Trad­ing chair­man, say­ing: "The HDC board isn't George."

On whether he was Hous­ing Min­is­ter when the con­tract was agreed to, he brushed it off say­ing if he hap­pened to hold the port­fo­lio tem­porar­i­ly at the time, it had "noth­ing to do with " his be­ing PM. He said there was no per­son­al in­volve­ment.

Row­ley said the Law As­so­ci­a­tion's re­cent po­si­tion on his stance on their is­sue in­volv­ing the Chief Jus­tice shows there's free­dom of speech.

Reporter: Gail Alexander

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