It seems that local businessman Brian Tiwarie’s claims of having assisted the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) while in power are falling flat, as the party is now distancing itself from having had such financial dealings with the businessman.
During the party’s weekly press conference at Freedom House yesterday, PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee was asked about the fact that Tiwarie, in a letter he wrote, which was released by former President Donald Ramotar, had admitted to providing transportation to party executives. Rohee claimed that the party had not been the recipient of such concessions.
“I’m totally unaware of all of that, and that is something for Ramotar to clarify,” Rohee, the former Home Affairs Minister under Ramotar, stated. “I don’t know anything about those things.”
Asked what Tiwarie’s financial contribution to the PPP was, Rohee stated that it was “none that I know of.” It was pointed out that Tiwarie’s company received a large amount of contracts and had always been perceived as a supporter of the PPP.
“He is giving his version of what he is alleging to have happened. You asked about Tiwarie’s contribution to the PPP, I’m not aware of any contributions to the PPP. When it came to this recent election, I’m not aware of any contribution that Tiwarie made during that campaign.”
Rohee stated that as General Secretary, he would know some of the people who would have contributed to the party. However, he claimed that he would not know of all.
It all started when former President Ramotar alleged that Tiwarie’s company, BK International, was handed some $800M in steel which was intended for the proposed US$18M Specialty Hospital. This was after the contractor; Surendra Engineering Company Limited (SECL) defaulted on the project and was fired.
Ramotar was quoted in sections of the media as saying, “We took possession of eight containers of steel that Surendra, at the time we took them to court, had on the wharf; and that was worth nearly double the $400M they owed us.” He stated that Tiwarie subsequently received the steel for his role as a sub-contractor for the project, under the noses of the new Government.
Tiwarie had blasted Ramotar, calling the former head of state, incompetent, and Ramotar in turn released a letter which was written by Tiwarie. In the letter, Tiwarie called himself a “born PPP” and spoke about the assistance he provided to the PPP government including trips.
Rohee also addressed the fact that during the party’s time in office, legislative steps were not taken to address the matter of campaign financing.
“That matter was discussed some time ago, when they had established an inter-parliamentary (committee) on elections and so forth. We used to meet at Office of the President and there was Sheila Holder and a few others. There used to be a joint committee meeting and they were discussing a whole host of issues, among them campaign financing.”
“But they never really got anywhere, because parties tend to be very shy about indicating where they got their finances from, especially if it is not above board and legal, when it comes to taking money from drug dealers. They will become very defensive.”
According to Rohee, attempts have been made since then to get that process moving, but he stated that from all appearances political parties were not keen on bringing campaign financing to the fore again.
Asked whether his party was interested in pushing for campaign financing reform, Rohee stated that that push has to come from the executives of the party and that they were not currently looking at the issue as a priority.
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