(Trinidad Guardian) Foreign Affairs and Communications Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan insists Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has strong family values which can enrich the lives of citizens. He was responding to questions on the use of the Prime Minister’s official residence at St Ann’s, by her sister, Vidwatie Newton, and her nephews. On Wednesday, Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald called on Persad-Bissessar to explain how her sister could be allowed to live at the official residence when the PM was not living there. McDonald also claimed Newton had used one of the Prime Minister’s official vehicles in Persad-Bissessar’s absence. Persad-Bissessar, in a brief interview with reporters later that same day, denied the claim.
Rambachan said yesterday the car was for the exclusive use of Persad-Bissessar but if she wanted her sister to accompany her in the vehicle that would be done. Told that Newton was seen getting out of the car PM 1 on Carnival Tuesday, wearing a Carnival costume in the absence of Persad-Bissessar, Rambachan said he was not aware of that. “You’re giving me new information,” he added. Asked if Newton’s accommodation at the PMs official residence was an additional cost to the State, Rambachan said: “It’s very interesting that the personal life of the Prime Minister is coming under such scrutiny, especially the family life of the Prime Minister.” He then commented on a remark made by McDonald, who used the term “family cabal” in reference to the Prime Minister’s family. He said he “thought it very indecent that the Prime Minister’s family can be described as a cabal. I don’t think that anyone would like to know that his or her family is so described.”
Rambachan added: “The Prime Minister, like so many of us in the Government, all of us value family life and value all members of our family. “We are very close to family members and we promote family life as a whole.” He said it was the breakdown in family life that was causing some of the problems affecting the people of T&T. He added: “It is a credit to the Prime Minister, a great example to the country, that she continues to uphold the quality of family life.” Rambachan said the PM visited her private Philippine home on weekends to be with her grandchildren, her son and daughter-in-law and other members of the family. He said she grew up in an extended family “and therefore she would have cultivated certain values which are very important to her and which she has lived with all her life.” Rambachan added: “Now that she is an exemplar of those values, I think the whole society will be enriched by that.”