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Rowley: Move on VAT 'deceitful'

Dr. Keith Rowley.

PORT OF SPAIN – This country is once again being deceived by the People’s Partnership Government, says Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley. [He] was responding yesterday to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s announcement that Value Added Tax will be removed from food items. The Prime Minister was speaking at the People’s Partnership pre-budget rally at Mid Center Mall, Chaguanas, on Saturday.

Rowley, however, criticised the PM’s statements when he spoke at the 43rd annual conference of the PNM Women’s League at City Hall, Port of Spain.

Addressing a large gathering of PNM women supporters, Rowley said: “In talking about government and deception, yesterday’s behaviour was just a continuation of the deception, because to deceive, you have to lie.” “The truth sees no one . . . it may confuse you but it won’t deceive you. Deception means you have to lie,” he added.

Rowley said VAT already did not apply to many food items and then read out a long list of items that were zero-rated. As he did this, cheers came from the audience. He said it was in fact the PNM who first had the tax removed from basic food items.

“It has been established even before they came into office that VAT does not apply to basic food stuff,” he said. Rowley took issue with the media reporting of the news about the announcement.

“Today three newspapers in Trinidad and Tobago … three front pages, VAT gone off food, and I want to chide the media in this country,” he said. “How could you fall for that so? Because they gone on a platform and shout that nonsense, you swallow it hook, line and sinker and put that on the front page.” Rowley said that the PP’s pre-budget rally should have been called the “Rowley rally,” because the event had been organised in an effort to demonise his character.

He said this was because of the fear that the Partnership was now feeling towards various civil society groups and political parties joining together and taking a stand. Rowley said the PNM’s general council had given him permission to speak and join forces with anyone he saw fit in an effort to have the Attorney General removed for his role in the early proclamation of Section 34.

He praised the efforts of the NUGFW in getting daily-paid workers a nine per cent increase and attributed it to the march which he organised in Port-of-Spain last Tuesday. He said all these positive things that had been happening for the society had increased the PP’s Government’s anxieties. “All of a sudden, the Government wants every television station, they want every radio station and all of a sudden, I am the biggest demon in Trinidad and Tobago… All of a sudden!” he said.

Rowley also hinted the PNM’s constitution may soon be changed to allow the entire party membership to vote for a political leader. He said that there were considerations to change the time a political leader can serve, from five years to four years. He said this was being changed because it would give the party membership a chance to decide if the current political leader was performing optimal or needed to be changed before the next general elections. (Guardian)

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