Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 29th 2015 Contents ANNA-LISA PAUL
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday
sought to distance himself from reports which
alleged he was the housing minister at the time
of the construction of the Las Alturas housing
project at Lady Young Road, Morvant.
In a release issued by the Corporate Commu-
nications Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister
(OPM) around 2 pm, officials refuted media reports
that claimed it was under Rowley's tenure that
the failed development was constructed.
The fifth session of the commission of enquiry
(CoE) was scheduled to start yesterday but was
adjourned "due to the unavailability of witness-
es."This session was expected to run from yesterday
to October 9.
Officials indicated that due to the scheduling
conflicts with some of the witnesses and Queen's
Counsel Vincent Nelson, who represents the
Housing Development Corporation, alternative
dates will have to be set.
However, they are hoping that the fifth session
will be held before October is out.
The enquiry was set up to investigate the cir-
cumstances that led to the construction of the
Las Alturas Towers at Lady Young Road, Morvant,
and is being chaired by retired Justice Mustapha
Ibrahim at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry
Last week, commission officials assured that
they did not intend to abandon the enquiry fol-
lowing the change in government.
The release from the OPM read: "Contrary to
a recent media report Dr Rowley did not hold the
portfolio of minister of housing at the time of
the awards for the construction of the failed Las
Alturas Towers which are the subject of the
It was stated that the portfolio was held by
then minister of planning, housing and the envi-
ronment, Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde, who was
appointed to the position in December 2007.
The release added that the "contract items
under the purview and investigation of the com-
mission of enquiry occurred from 2008 onwards
when he (Rowley) was no longer the minister of
housing and therefore held no responsibility for
The enquiry was recommended by the former
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar after con-
cerns were raised about the cost which skyrocketed
from $65 million to $90 million.
Commission officials said they were appointed
by the President Anthony Carmona on December
2, 2014, and unless instructed otherwise, they
would continue to carry out their duties as outlined
in the procedural rules.
During a brief interview at Cabildo Chambers,
St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, on his first day
in office, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, when
questioned about the future of the commission,
promised to get the facts on it.
At the time, he said: "I would also have to deal
with the fact that there may be a perceived conflict
of interest, in so far as the last prime minister
specifically made certain statements, which of
course I don't agree with, but I must act with
propriety in relation to the conduct of that mat-
"I would not want to run afoul of any aspect
of a perception of a conflict of interest."
When contacted about the amount of money
that had so far been spent on the enquiry, officials
directed that query to the OPM, whom they cited
as the one responsible for payment to the com-
missioners and attorneys.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, September 29, 2015
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for SEPTEMBER 28TH, 2015
Rafiq Ali, one of the men who led a
group of 40 people from T&T to Saudi
Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage,
says the deadly Hajj stampede which
took place last week Thursday may
have been as a result of pilgrims rush-
ing to complete their rituals.
Ali, 38, who returned to T&T with
his group on Sunday night, said none
in his group were hurt in the incident
which claimed 717 lives and left 900
In an interview yesterday, Ali said
none in his group were aware that any-
thing had happened that morning.
He said the group were in tents about
two kilometres away from the site of
"We didn't see or hear anything, prob-
ably you all got the news before us. It
was only a few hours after it happened
then we knew because it had happened
at the earliest time for the ritual, everyone
was calm at the time though and there
was no indication anything was wrong.
"It was caused by pilgrims rushing
to do the stoning and not waiting or
respecting the times set out to get it
done," he added.
There are many rituals to be com-
pleted during the pilgrimage, including
the symbolic stoning of the devil in
Mina, about two miles away from the
Mecca holy site.
Ali said to his knowledge, approxi-
mately 205 Trinidadians traveled to
Mecca in four groups. He said all mem-
bers have since returned home safely.
He said his group waited until the
night to make their way to do the stoning
as it was easier on them that way.
"We delayed until the night to get an
ease in the number of people there. We
try our best not to take our pilgrims
through the heat. A lot of pilgrims go
with a very warlike attitude and rush to
do everything and go everywhere," he
Ali, who lived in Saudi Arabia for
seven years completing a degree, said
he did not expect this year's tragedy to
affect attendance of next year's Hajj.
"It is a journey every Muslim has
to do at least once, providing you are
able financially and physically to do
it and it is not an easy task but I don't
expect that this incident will deter
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Keith
Rowley has written to King Salman bin
Abdulaziz Al-Saud, custodian of the
Two Holy Mosques of the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia, expressing condolences
on T&T's behalf.
PM: I was not housing
minister at the time
AT A GLANCE
The commission of enquiry was set up to
investigate "the entire process which led to
the construction of the Las Alturas Towers at
Lady Young Gardens, Morvant, and all other
acts, matters or decisions done or undertaken
incidental to and including the construction" of
the project, which includes the procurement
Two multi-storey units of the Las Alturas
housing project began falling apart soon after
construction and the $26 million towers were
earmarked for demolition.
They were part of a larger project, which
was originally budgeted at $65 million and
then rose to $90 million.
The commission is chaired by former Justice
of Appeal Mustapha Ibrahim.
The other members include civil engineers,
Dr Myron Wing-Sang Chin and Anthony
Farrell. Attorney Laraine Lutchmedial is the
They were appointed by President Anthony
Carmona in December 2014.
In September 2014, former Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar recommended an
enquiry into the project after raising concerns
about the two towers which had to be
Rowley said though he welcomed the probe,
it would be another waste of taxpayers'
The commission's attorneys include Senior
Counsel Pamela Elder and Jagdeo Singh,
instructed by Alvin Pariagsingh.
Queen's Counsel Vincent Nelson and Larry
Lalla are appearing for the Housing
Richard Mason, Jehan Mohammed, Faydia
Mohammed and Brendon Sullivan are
appearing for the Urban Development
Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Vinda Maharaj and Kirt Walrond are
appearing on behalf of the Ministry of Housing
and Urban Development.
Justin Phelps and Jerome Herrera,
instructed by Anabelle Sooklal are appearing
for Geotech Associates Limited (GA).
Emerson John-Charles is appearing on
behalf of Civil Engineering Management and
Services (CEMAS) and Steve Kistow
Returning Hajj pilgrim:
Big rush caused stampede
A member of the Hajj pilgrimage is greeted by a relative on their return from
Saudi Ariba at Piarco Airport on Sunday night. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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