Firetruck ‘fiasco’

PORT OF SPAIN — Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday called the issue of Cabinet’s multi-million-dollar approval for the retrieval of the firetruck that ran off a cliff in Blanchisseuse last year as a “fiasco”.

Speaking at the opening of the Caribbean Investment Forum at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s, she said: “That is a fiasco. “I believe the present minister of national security is seeking a report. Therefore I will hold any comments on that until the report is done.”

However, even as the PM was making the comment, the T&T Guardian was uncovering information which revealed there would be no report.

This is because current acting Chief Fire Officer Nayar Rampersad is unable to produce one, since former acting chief fire officer Carl Williams had already dealt with the matter in his report to the Security Ministry. A citizens’ lobby group said yesterday it was considering filing a lawsuit against the Government so the money could be recovered.

Persad-Bissessar made her comment while answering questions over how cabinet agreed to the reduced price of $6.8 million for retrieving the firetruck. The water tender, from the Arima Fire Station, was responding to a call from Blanchisseuse about a fatal car accident when it ran off the road.

Last week, former national security minister Jack Warner said it was a collective cabinet decision to approve payment last November to the company to retrieve the truck. But two senior ministers told the T&T Guardian over the weekend they had been misled as they were led to believe the fire tender was valued at $50 million to $60 million. When asked about the confidentiality of the cabinet meetings on the fire truck issue yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said that would be discussed by cabinet.

“I am sure they will raise it in the cabinet and it will be discussed there. I cannot take a unilateral decision on that matter.”

‘No report being compiled’

Questioned further on the issue, the Prime Minister replied: “Have a good day and I will speak to you all another time.” Yesterday, however, Cabinet sources told the T&T Guardian no report was being compiled in spite of claims by Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed that a statement would be released after Rampersad submitted the report. Mohammed on Sunday told the T&T Guardian: “As far as I am concerned, Minister of National Security Emmanuel George is awaiting a report from the Chief Fire Officer and when he receives that report a statement would be released on behalf of the Government.” But when T&T Guardian contacted Rampersad yesterday to ask the status of the report, he said: “After I did my enquiries I realised that the report was submitted by former chief fire officer Carl Williams. I cannot do anything more.” George and Mohammed could not be contacted yesterday as telephone calls went unanswered. (Guardian)

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