Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2014 Contents A5
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The intended acquisition of a
long-range patrol vessel (LRV) from
China is part of this country s mar-
itime protection strategy. But T&T
has no intention of entering into an
agreement if taxpayers have to shell
out millions for a "white elephant".
Making the statement yesterday
was National Security Minister Gary
Griffith who spoke at a press con-
ference at the ministry, Abercromby
A press release issued from the
Office of the Prime Minister yesterday
quoted the PM as saying China had
promised to deliver a long-range ves-
sel to the T&T Coast Guard in the
shortest possible time.
She said the Coast Guard needed
two vessels to lock down T&T s bor-
ders in light of the increase in arms
Persad-Bissessar led a T&T del-
egation to bilateral talks with the Chi-
nese Premier Li Keqiang and top offi-
cials of the Chinese Government at
the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
The T&T delegation also included
Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston
Dookeran, Minister of Trade and
Industry Vasant Bharath and Minister
of Energy and Energy Affairs Kevin
The Prime Minister said she was
aware China was building two LRVs
and "pleaded with Li Keqiang to sell
one in the shortest possible time,"
the release said.
It added that Persad-Bissessar also
sought the assistance from the Chi-
nese to establish a National Opera-
tions Centre (NOC), saying a Chinese
company was already interested in
such a project.
Griffith said T&T had a maritime
security plan which was not just a
matter of "throwing assets."
He said: "The assets being put in
would be of very little value unless
you have intelligence. You could put
100 OPVs (offshore patrol vessels)
around the shoreline and it would be
of no value if you don t have intel-
ligence to pinpoint where our borders
are being infiltrated .
"That is why I have re-energised
the security co-operation agreement
between Venezuela and Colombia
and that is going to provide us with
critical information for interception."
He said the concept of a maritime
security wall also involved the acqui-
sition of possible hovercraft, inter-
ceptors and floating coastal platforms
among other things, which would
work in tandem with intelligence-
"The long-range patrol vessel is
something that is important but that
is more to secure our exclusive eco-
nomic zone which would be at the
north and the east coast from 12 to
200 miles north and east of T&T.
"But what we are doing is to ensure
that if and when we do purchase such
a vessel, we do not end up with what
we almost got when we had pur-
chased the BAE OVP... it was littered
with irregularities and I have no inten-
tion to sit here and let the taxpayers
get something (out of which) they
don t get value for money," Griffith
He said the purchase of any vessel
would not be done via any politician
but through consultation with law-
enforcement officials and experts.
"We do have a naval implemen-
tation team and they have actually
looked at the vessel. They have looked
at vessels from Korea as well and
with their report they will actually
give us the concept of what they see
as the best type of vessel for us to
move forward with," Griffith said.
Before a decision could be finalised,
the National Security Minister said,
other details must be taken into con-
sideration, including finance and
"It would be difficult for me to
make a statement until we get this
information when the Prime Minister
returns but I have no intention to
purchase white elephants," Griffith
Government Senator Devant
Maharaj has called on T&T Pub-
lishers and Broadcasters Associ-
ation (TTPBA) president Darren
Lee Sing and the association to
apologise to Independent Senator
Anthony Vieira for criticising
Vieira s statement that media hous-
es should disclose any political
"Darren Lee Sing... this is a man
whose father get a radio station
overnight because of political con-
nection and he want to criticise Sen-
ator Vieira?" Maharaj said in yes-
terday s Senate debate.
Maharaj was contributing to
debate on an Independent motion
on campaign financing reform.
He noted Vieira s comment in
recent debate on the same motion
when Vieira made a call for media
houses to disclose their political
affiliation since the media should
not be an "echo chamber for politi-
Maharaj also noted Vieira s sen-
timent that reporters should declare
their personal and commercial rela-
tionships and that when the media
were "hijacked" by special interests
--- people with deep pockets who
may have a personal axe to grind
--- such conflict of interests should
be known. Maharaj further noted
Vieira felt it was wrong for reporters
to be used as "hired guns."
Maharaj added: "I endorse this
statement by Senator Vieira. I think
it s correct. iIt should remain.
"But what was the response Sen-
ator Vieira got? He was vilified by
the least of the apostles, Darren Lee
Sing, T&T Publisher and Broad-
casters Association, said the media
had no political... this is a man
whose father get a radio station
overnight, you know, because of
political connections and he want
to criticise Senator Vieira?
"Darren Lee Sing and the TPBA
should apologise to the Independent
senator for even contemplating that
statement," Maharaj said.
"Yes! Yes!" PP Senators shout-
"To slam an Independent senator
when your hands are less than
clean." Maharaj added.
He gave details from a Director
of Public Prosecutions report that
on October 7, 2002, before election
that year, then PNM minister Hed-
widge Bereaux told then permanent
secretary Emmanuel George (now
a government minister) that the
Prime Minister wanted a note
brought to Cabinet recommending
that Louis Lee Sing should be grant-
ed a radio broadcast licence.
He said the division was that
applications were to be treated on
a first-come-first-served basis.
A draft Cabinet note on the grant
of a special licence was prepared by
George, Mala Ganase and Elizabeth
Camps highlighting a number of
concerns since the possible process
would be outside the usual proce-
dure, he said.
Maharaj added: "What happened
here is a known financier and sup-
porter of the PNM, as he existed in
other incarnations in other radio
stations... campaigning, on virtually
a de-facto PNM station. They cam-
paigned 24/7 and for the PNM."
Maharaj said at the time George
"Umbala" Joseph also campaigned
on that station.
He said campaign financing
reform should consider all these
Maharaj said the role of partisan
media, "undisclosed as they are,"
continued up to this year and noted
that on I95 the THA had advertised
that people could apply to them for
He said if any agency did that in
Trinidad, "you would have Tobag-
onians wanting our heads as they
would rightly say we were practising
inequality and was biased in treat-
ment of one sector of the national
"But in the THA election buildup
you had the THA advertising, as
they do only on I95, to buttress the
PNM mouthpiece. A complaint was
made to the Equal Opportunity
Commission on that land issue."
Senator wants apology from publishers
Griffith on patrol vessel from China:
T&T will not buy 'white elephant'
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar inspects the Guard of Honour comprising members of the Chinese Military
Band inside the Great Hall of the People yesterday. PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER.
The TTPBA's Darren Lee Sing
said the TTPBA had already
given its position on the Vieira
comments, via a press release.
The matter was a month old and
he believed they had put it to
rest. He said he didn't know why
the need had "arisen Tuesday to
bring it back up, since we have
decisively put it at abeyance."
He said he did not know the
TTPBA had anything to do with
the issue Senator Maharaj was
raising and did not know his
professional life or TTPBA's role
should be tarnished by those
TTPBA PUTS ISSUE TO REST
In her discussions Persad-
Bissessar sought assistance
• Construction and design of six
new economic zones in T&T.
• Development of a trans-
shipment port and dry dock in
• Early processing of a loan
agreement with the China Exim
Bank so these projects can be
• Construction of two new
• Removal of asphalt from the
Pitch Lake in greater quantities.
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