The resolution that spurred the debate on the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) Report on the Cruise Pier Project was passed at 11:48 pm on August 11 after a lengthy discussion among legislators.
The motion to have the report debated was piloted by First District Representative, Hon. Andrew Fahie who announced that the report raised a number of burning questions and hot issues that are being publicly discussed on a daily basis.
As the debate got on the way Sixth District Representative, Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines, and Eighth District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn – the two members of Government who are part of the PAC – distanced themselves from the report announcing that certain things were done in their absence and that they were not allowed to append a report to the document.
In fact, Hon. Penn revealed interesting detailed and burning questions: “What do the members (of the PAC) take us for? In one night you looked at eight sets of minutes, you looked at all of the evidence collectively as a Committee in one day. Not affording myself and my colleague an opportunity to put forward a dissenting report. Up to this day we have yet to receive the minutes of what transpired at this meeting. If that is not cloaked in secrecy, lack of transparency, and I don’t know what to call this process. In one night you were able to finish all this work that you were not able to do in months. You found the fortitude to complete this in one night! It made me proud. We were born yesterday, so apparently there is two PACs working.”
MICKEY MOUSE REPORT – SAYS HON. PENN
Hon. Penn added that the report is riddled with innuendos, a witch hunt against the Minister of Communications and Works, and was void of critical information: “Madame Speaker this is not right…it is not fair…we did not do the people of this Territory justice…people don’t know what to believe. We can’t use that committee (PAC) for a mickey mouse process, as a charade as a cham to score cheap political points.”
Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool in his deliberation noted that what he described as a baseless report was a stratagem of the Opposition: “I believe I am doing the right thing. I can’t understand why the Opposition members are doing everything possible, every step of the way to stop this project. I ask myself why. I hate to waste the public’s time dealing with a PAC report that has no basis. It is yet to be proven…assumptions and assertions. Crab antics they want to prey on the people’s emotion. The people make me sound like I want to thief the people’s money.”
“Go and look for evidence stop being biased and misleading,” the Minister shouted in the debate and later declared that the PAC report is a form of wickedness in high places. Hon. Vanterpool added that he received a call from the bank that gave the loan, and that the bank expressed concern because of an alleged media report that there was going to be a commission of inquiry. Hon. Vanterpool stated that the PAC report was preventing the bank from lending money. “The confidence of investing in this country is vastly eroding, no one will come to invest with that kind of behavior…. This government has pursued the project, and are pleased about where it is….No evidence of corruption if there is I will be the first to go to court for corruption. Where is the evidence?…This PAC report is frivolous, unfounded and a waste of time,” the Minister said as he announced that some people are trying to stop the project out of jealousy.
Minister for Education, Hon. Myron Walwyn in his contribution accused the PAC of disregarding the Standing Orders and approaching the task with unclean hands: “I say PAC did not come to this matter with clean hands. They came with an agenda on their minds – Commission of Inquiry, and ‘let me fix the evidence to suit that,” Hon. Walwyn declared.
As it relates to the Standing Orders, the Minister for Education presented letters to the House which was from persons interviewed by the Committee who said that they were not given an opportunity to review the statements: “Here it is that you have the Standing Orders of the House and you are breaking them blatantly and the evidence is here clearly from the letters written by the persons who were interviewed both on the ports staff and on the board. I am calling for this report to be removed. It has to be taken up, taken back and fixed and brought back. I know the real chairman is here this afternoon,” Hon. Walwyn declared.
MISTAKES CAN BE AVOIDED – SAYS HON. ALVIN CHRISTOPHER
Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser announced that Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith should have addressed the matter: “The Premier is the one who should take the lead and come front row and center, not the Minister. He as the Minister feel compelled to do it, but the question is who is it that the public wants to hear from? This matter need not be this far, had the Premier spoken on it earlier; that is what the people want to know… if people hear the Minister, they think that he is the one leading the direction.”
Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie Skelton dismissed the report stating that the cruise pier project is going to help a lot of people, and that the report is filled with a lot of unfounded allegations. The Minister for Health also called on the PAC to be more responsible and to follow the rules of the House.
Public Accounts Committee Member and Second District Representative, Hon. Alvin Christopher said that as he listened to the debate, he sensed that the PAC was being attacked: “What I have heard is attacks on the PAC, all we did was ask questions and summarizing based on the answers we heard. So, Madame Speaker I don’t understand why we are attacking the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee made some recommendations, there were some concerns, those concerns were expressed to the PAC…The report that is before you, we can ignore or we can use it as a guiding force that the mistakes will not be repeated,” Hon. Christopher said.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering announced that he supported the decisions made by Minister Vanterpool and stated that some of the actions had to be taken because Hon. Vanterpool was working with the pressure of cruise requirement deadlines.
Premier, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith advised that the debate on the report spanned a few days, but he said that he hoped the public was listening and understood that what government is doing is for the betterment of the country and not for personal gain.
In wrapping up the debate, Hon. Fahie said that the Government played politics with the report and created a smoke screen. He said that the report did not involve any emotion, assumptions or feelings and he dismissed government members claims about an alleged witch hunt and a quest for power.