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Gov't defends almost $5m spending to host T&T PM, delegation

Published:Friday | October 14, 2016 | 10:26 PM
T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is introduced to the Jamaican welcoming party by Prime Minister Andrew Holnes upon his arrival to the island in July. Opposition member Lambert Brown is questioning Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith (second right in photo) why the leaders couldn't have their talks when they meet at regional meetings that occur throughout the year.

Jovan Johnson, Staff Reporter

The Government says almost $5 million spent for July's visit by Trinidadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley "was money well spent" despite concerns from Opposition Senators that the money could have been used to help "poor people".

Opposition member Lambert Brown questioned Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith in the Senate this morning on why the leaders couldn't have their talks when they meet at regional meetings that occur throughout the year.

According to him, the money could have been spent elsewhere in the public service such as healthcare.

However, Johnson Smith argued that other meetings of regional leaders such as the last Caribbean Community heads of government meeting which preceded Rowley's visit, are not sufficient for "scope, depth and extent" of talks that were necessary between Rowley and Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

She also noted that, among other things, the two countries agreed on important development issues such as energy and sport cooperation.

Rowley, who came on the invitation of Holness, said his visit was to avert a 'trade war'.

A full statement on the visit will be made later on to the Senate, the foreign minister said.

IN PHOTO: Lambert Brown - File

The Opposition member Brown raised the issue over his dissatisfaction with Johnson Smith's response to questions tabled in July, querying the data used by Jamaica to write to Trinidad and Tobago in April, over immigration issues that have plagued the relationship between the two countries in recent years.

Johnson Smith admitted she did not have all the data to question Trinidad but Brown insisted she was misleading the Senate.

"We seem to live in a reality where people can say something and it become so," she said, angering Brown and forcing a brief intervention by the Senate President Tom Tavares Finson.

Brown later dropped the issue.

The Gleaner obtained information in September under the Access to Information Act showing that it cost taxpayers $4.6 million to host Rowley, his wife and a delegation for the July 17-21 official visit.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com