Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 17th 2017 Contents A6 news
guardian.co.tt Friday, March 17, 2017
Calls for Tourism Minister to be axed
Shamfa stays in office---Rowley
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says
no consideration was being given to re-
move Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe
from his Cabinet as the decision to close
the Tourism Development Company was
a decision taken by the Government and
not one minister.
He was speaking during yesterday's
post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplo-
matic Centre, St Ann's. The Communications
Workers Union have been calling on Rowley
to axe the Tourism Minister over her failure
to consult with the union over the closure of
the company and the fate of the 114 workers.
Rowley said that call could not be a seri-
ous one. He said he lead the Cabinet which
decided to close the TDC.
"So therefore to call on me to fire the
minister because the minister did it is not
to understand what is happening," he said.
He said Cudjoe was a part of the Cabinet
"so to try to personalise it and to try to attack
an individual is not getting us anywhere and
we are not being distracted by that."
Rowley said the "Government will go as
quickly as possible to the point where we have
better promotion of T&T tourism product,
have a better product available and expand
our footprint in Caribbean tourism. That is
what we are after."
Rowley said two new entities, one focus-
sing on Tobago and the other on Trinidad,
will be established within the next three
He said the decision to close the company
was not made "out-of-the-blue."
Rowley said under the proposed arrange-
ment the Tobago House of Assembly "will
have a greater input and direct responsibility
for marketing and promoting Tobago because
Tobagonians want that. That is what they
He said the product to market the coun-
try has to be regulated to maintaining the
standard required. Rowley said a regulatory
agency has to be established also.
Rowley said it was the union's responsi-
bility to advocate for its members, who are
the workers of the TDC. He said he had "no
problem with that, we expect them to ensure
that the workers are treated fairly but at the
end of the day the Government looks at the
wider national interest."
Rowley said he was "disappointed to hear
some of the unfounded allegations" about
He said some $200 million was wasted un-
der the TDC, previously, "so the availability
of funding was not the problem affecting the
He said T&T's "failure to properly promote
itself was not simply a question of not enough
money." He added: "It might be a dysfunc-
tional effort, a poor promotional model."
Rowley expressed disappointment over
a decision by the Communications Work-
ers' Union and others to withdraw from the
National Tripartite Advisory Council which
established as a forum for government, busi-
ness and labour to meet to discuss matters
of national importance.
He said he did not expect that there with-
drawal of the labour movement would have
occurred at the first instance of a problem.
Rowley said the problems should and could
have been discussed within the body.
PM heads off to US, Chile missions
Prime Minister Keith Rowley will be
travelling to North and South America
for business and personal matters --- in-
cluding a vacation --- between month-end
Rowley announced his travel plans at yes-
terday's weekly Government briefing at the
Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's.
PM said he will be travelling on March 29
--- during a Parliamentary break --- to Hou-
The trip will involve meetings with Shell, BP
and Exxon representatives concerning energy
He said two of those foreign companies are
in T&T and Government was keeping its eyes
on what happens in Guyana where Exxon is
a major player.
Rowley said, "There's synergy to be had be-
tween T&T and Guyana in the hydro-carbon
industry. The Guyanese Government has been
most understanding and hospitable."
"Hopefully, we're positioning ourselves to
be contributors to the hydro-carbon industry.
The plan in Guyana is that Exxon and its part-
ners are aiming to produce 100,000 barrels
of oil in the first phase. T&T has a refinery
where it produces 70,000 barrels of oil daily."
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minis-
ter Stuart Young will accompany Rowley to
After Houston, Rowley said he will take a
week's vacation. He noted he's been "on his
feet" since last August 2016 when he had his
"When I'm through with the Houston as-
signment, it's my intention to take one week's
vacation. I'll be away for a week, so don't let
that shock you. I'm entitled to 28 days' vaca-
tion, but I'll only take a week," he said.
He did not say what his vacation plans are
or if they would be in the US.
During PM's last vacation in August 2016,
he had visited a California clinic for 10 days for
tests related to changes concerning his pros-
tate. These had been detected by local doctors.
On his return from California, Rowley had
said the US tests showed he is in good health
and had no ailment. He said he'd been seeing
the US West Coast doctors for more than 20
years and they had his medical records, and
he trusted their ability.
At that time, Rowley said, based on the US
examinations, his doctors had requested he
visit them in nine to 12 months.
However, yesterday Rowley didn't say if
he would do any health-checks during the
Rowley said he will also travel at the end
of May to attend his daughter's graduation
in New York.
"God willing I will not miss her graduation
for anything, so I'll be stepping out for a few
days," he said.
Finally, Rowley said he has accepted an
invitation from the President of Chile to
undertake a state visit to Chile in the last
week of May.
He said Chile is an area where T&T is
"pushing the door open with our toes."
"Some of our (gas) products which nor-
mally would have gone northwards, we're
now looking for markets southwards as the
market isn't as attractive as it used to be. We
have to seek new markets on this trip where
we're building bonds with Chile."
He said Chilean President Michele Bachelet
had also agreed to assist the region lobby in
the US and elsewhere regarding regional rela-
tionship with international banks de-risking,
FATCA and correspondent banking issues.
However, he may not be undertaking a pro-
posed trip to China this year. Rowley said talks
have to be advanced further on this.
Rowley said over coming days, there will
be increased Parliamentary sessions --- likely
two Lower House sessions weekly.
He said there would not be any rush to pass
legislation in one session.
TDC workers want
meeting with PM
Employees of the Tourism Development
Corporation (TDC) want to meet with Prime
Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
They said since the announcement of planned
dissolution of the TDC no one has taken the time to
consider the mental trauma they are going through.
The workers are blaming Tourism Minister Sham-
fa Cudjoe for the current state of the company,
claiming she has "constantly attacked, berated
and disrespected staff on various media platforms."
They also claim she failed to articulate a vision
for the tourism industry in T&T and are appealing
to Rowley "to sit and hear our side of the story,
hear our struggles pushing against past ministers,
chairmen, and directors who have no clue about
tourism in order to get our ideas and programmes
approved and implemented."
"Leadership at the TDC has also been sadly lack-
ing, so how did the government expect the TDC to
function effectively?" a spokesman for the workers
asked. On Thursday, after two of their colleagues
were sent home, the workers started packing their
"We do not know what's next or who will be
next. We just in limbo, but we can't work. What
can we do?"
"No one has even considered the mental trauma
which we are going through because this decision
is affecting people mentally and some of us are just
feeling hopeless," the spokesman said.
TDC insiders said while the ministry is supposed
to provide policy directives for the effective ex-
ecution of marketing and product development
programmes for the agency, that has not happened
The last tourism policy was the National Tourism
Policy produced in 2010 and revised in 2012 and no
one could shed any light on the 1995 Tourism Master
Plan which was supposed to provide direction for
In announcing the decision to dissolve the TDC
one week ago, Cudjoe said in other tourism des-
tinations there is a regulatory authority to ensure
basic standards are met by operators in the industry.
One worker countered: "In other successful tour-
ism destinations throughout the world, tourism is
often times joined with another ministry such as
trade and transportation to make it more effective."
Workers say the Cabinet decision to create two
separate entities will result in the same fledgling
tourism sector because the root cause of the prob-
lem is not being addressed, which is the need for
effective, efficient and strong leadership.
They said the TDC has always promoted Trinidad
and Tobago as a visitor destination, because it is one
country. However, the THA has always promoted
Tobago and made it clear that the TDC should stay
out of Tobago's tourism.
While no details of an audit of the TDC have
been revealed, workers accuse a former chairman
of spending more than $300,000 in tickets for
Carnival fetes, $200,000 for a board retreat with
spouses at the Magdalena Beach Resort, and using
the company's vehicle for personal business.
They said another chairman had three employ-
ees suspended and one fired for an error made by
the then board which cost the TDC and taxpayers
over $500,000 in legal fees for wrongful dismissal.
They blame political appointees for most of the
problems, citing a case where four staff members
were sent on leave after they complained that a
chairman and his wife were giving instructions at
the Maracas Bay Facility.
Now that the decision has been taken to close
the TDC the workers want Government to show
them the data that led to the decision. They also
want to know if the minister and Government will
pay for "our children's books, school fees, food, car
loans, mortgages, medical loans and other financial
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at the
Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. PHOTO: ANISTO ALVES
Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe.
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