Big Momma’s House; why we are all right about Marlene… and wrong

Independent Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir suggested last Friday that “Big Momma’s House” might be an appropriate caption for the furore surrounding Marlene McDonald’s request for a home for her boo, which may or may not be an improvement on Marlene-gate.

If only because it would be more accurate to say Marlene-gated community.

Photo: Home sweet home... (Courtesy Big Momma's House)
Photo: Home sweet home…
(Courtesy Big Momma’s House)

UNC Senator Wayne Sturge, who is revelling in his new role as whistle-blower—one that fits only slightly less awkwardly than his Superman underwear—might have preferred “Marlene goes to Jail.”

Fixin’ T&T might prefer to serenade the Prime Minister with Semisonic’s memorable hit, “Closing Time”: “Open all the doors and let you out into the world… You don’t have to go home but you can’t. Stay. Here.”

But, judging from Keithos and Faris’ statements so far, nobody will be letting Marlene out into the world anytime soon.

So, is it much ado about nothing? Or is Keithos’ half-slip showing?

First, a quick summary.

Eight years ago, while Marlene was Culture Minister, she asked then Housing Minister Emile Dick-Forde to get a house for her luvmuffin Michael Carew who, for better or worse, seems to have been implicated in several media scandals over the past decade without getting his photo snapped or lifted.

One has to assume that “Michael Carew” is not a pseudonym for “Keyser Söze”. Or we are not all stuck in a sequel to “My Fake Fiancé.”

Photo: Answer me, dammit! Are you or are you not Michael Carew?! (Courtesy Usual Suspects)
Photo: Answer me, dammit! Are you or are you not Michael Carew?!
(Courtesy Usual Suspects)

Marlene, incidentally, said she lives in a separate home to her sugarplum. And, according to media reports, Carew subsequently rented out his HDC home.

So Keithos has a wanna-be real estate mogul as Housing Minister? What could possibly go wrong there?

Critics immediately pointed to presumed similarities between the present administration and the free-spending, fete match, pick-up side they just replaced.

Mr Live Wire says “yes” and “no.”

Undoubtedly, the PNM Cabinet lacks a certain esprit de corps of its predecessors.

Sturge reacquainted the public with the issue of “Carew’s” Fidelis Heights apartment on 27 December 2015. And, three and a half weeks later, Trinidad and Tobago is still discussing the HDC apartment…


Had the UNC been in power and let’s say Jack Warner was caught spending close to TT$7 million in taxpayers’ money to tow a firetruck valued at considerably less than that outlay. Warner would not have long to wait before, let’s say Anil Roberts’ board, authorised a TT$34 million sum to not teach Life Sport participants.

The UNC leaked scandals with more regularity and consistency than Bill Cosby handed out Quaaludes in the 1960s and 70s.

Photo: Okay Live Wire... That ent funny man!
Photo: Okay Live Wire… That ent funny man!

But, no, poor Marlene has been left alone like a colossal slab of cheese, save for an odd rescue attempt by the AG, who said the Housing Minister did nothing wrong but he certainly would never do the same thing.

Which is sort of like tossing someone an umbrella to face a tornado while you head into your own bunker.

“Faris, wouldn’t it have been more helpful to Marlene if you mentioned, as an analogy, the empty building on 1 Alexandra Street, Port of Spain that a company, which listed your wife as director, rented to the State at a cost of TT$8.2 million per year exclusive of a further TT$927,360 per annum to guard?

“Faris? Faris?!”

Presumably, he already shut the door to his bunker.

In any case, for better or worse—depending on whether you are a conscientious citizen or a wanna-be satirist—the PNM administration apparently does not do rapid-fire scandals.

Either that or the paywalls at the Trinidad Express newspaper are more effective than a legal injunction in stopping investigative stories from getting out these days.

Photo: Why de arse Express didn't put up a paywall when the People's Partnership was in government?! Take a big "Steups" for dat!
Photo: Why de arse Express didn’t put up a paywall when the People’s Partnership was in government?!
Take a big “Steups” for dat!

Wait, where was I? Mr Live Wire is all over the place like “Michael Carew” today.

Yes, Marlene and her gift of a HDC house for her snookums.

Sturge has sent the Housing Minister to the Integrity Commission. Critics, columnists and many in-between want Marlene removed from her office until the findings of the investigation.

Rowley and Al-Rawi argue that Marlene’s portfolio does not interfere with the IC investigation and are happy until the body’s findings.

And PNM fanatics have apparently dusted off the old UNC motto of “The PNM thief too!” and presumably settled on: “The UNC thief worse than dat!”

So what does Mr Live Wire say?

Well, they are all right.

Photo: Eh?
Photo: Eh?

More than just another alias for Keyser Söze, “Michael Carew” is a pseudonym for conflict of interest and, more poignantly, misuse of office for personal gain.

As such, Marlene has lost much of the public trust for her role in this episode. And it is especially hard to stomach such a person is the Minister of Housing.

But Keithos and Faris have every right to be unperturbed by the potential findings of the Integrity Commission.

If the Integrity Commission saw nothing wrong with the last Prime Minister moving in with contractor, Ralph Gopaul, who then received a TT$40 million contract from State-owned National Petroleum—making it the most expensive and captivating sleepover since “Inception.”

Photo: Okaaaay... So who is going to sign for my TT$40 million NP contract?! (Courtesy Inception)
Photo: Okaaaay… So who is going to sign for my TT$40 million NP contract?!
(Courtesy Inception)

And if the Integrity Commission also found no fault with Tanty Kamla spending around TT$1.4 million to take her sister, Vidwatie Newton, on overseas trips—making her the world’s most expensive neck cushion.

Surely, the Integrity Commission would not be bothered by Marlene presumably telling the then Housing Minister: “Sort out Mikey nah! Michael Carew. The fellah I keep telling you that you have to meet some time… Nah. He can’t come next week. He, ahmm, won’t be in the country.”

But Keithos and Faris are dead wrong too. They are hoping that Trinis won’t quite be able to put their displeasure with Marlene’s housing issues into words.

“(McDonald) was able to explain to the population, as she did yesterday, she did in fact enquire, and I think she enquired minister to minister,” Rowley told the Trinidad Guardian. “… If a minister is going to be fired for enquiring from another minister I should (not) be sitting here.

“I do that every day because when you represent the public, a member of my family might be a member of the public, when asked about something what do I tell them, that I can’t help you?”

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley: I didn't tell yuh not to bark at my dog? (Courtesy Jyoti Communication)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley: I didn’t tell yuh not to bark at my dog?
(Courtesy Jyoti Communication)

Mr Live Wire’s follow-up questions would be: “What is the point of the housing lottery for members of the public, if a minister could circumvent it with a phone call?

“If ministers could prioritise whoever they wished, doesn’t this mean that party members or friends, relatives and sweet men of ministers and influential party members would hold an unfair advantage over other citizens?

“Doesn’t this imply an implicit or potential violation of the HDC credo, which reads: ‘the Trinidad & Tobago Housing Development Corporation does not discriminate on any basis’ inclusive of ‘political affiliation’?

“Aren’t ministerial intervention for houses supposed to be restricted to special cases such as: loss of property through fire, flood or natural disaster, or exemplary national service?

“Did ‘Michael Carew’ provide any patriotic duty—to Marlene or otherwise—that would constitute national service?”

The UNC is not best placed to press this case. Glenn Ramadharsingh, for instance, allegedly had a very unusual vetting method for his needy female constituents, which sometimes occurred in his restroom with a pencil that would make Chris Gayle blush.

Photo: Mr Bean just missed out on a Cabinet position in the PP government.
Photo: Mr Bean just missed out on a Cabinet position in the PP government.

And, if you go through the list of UNC Ministers whose relatives, outside men and women benefitted from proximity to power, you are unlikely to find many good Christians or Kristyans or even Pastors.

So Keithos and Faris are right. But they are also very wrong. Just like their predecessors.

The Integrity Commission will be wrong too. It always is. Because integrity is not what a law book says. It is what it does not say.

But, while we are on the topic of rules, the HDC’s website does address the issue of the transfer of ownership of a house or apartment.

According to the HDC, the following conditions must be met: the property must be free of encumbrances; there must be no arrears on the account; the prospective owner(s) must satisfy the basic eligibility requirements for housing accommodation; and the applicant must take the necessary oath before a commissioner of affidavits and provide the supporting documents.

So, if “Michael Carew” did rent out his Fidelis Heights apartment, Live Wire says an independent investigative body should open an investigation into that one time.

Photo: Housing Minister Marlene McDonald: Don't hate the playa. Hate the game. (Copyright Andy Hypolite/Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Housing Minister Marlene McDonald: Don’t hate the playa. Hate the game.
(Copyright Andy Hypolite/Trinidad Guardian)

And, if “Michael Carew” is guilty, then Marlene is disqualified by association. Because, unless her boo has more homes than Ramadharsingh and Vasant Bharath combined, it is inconceivable that, in eight years of a common-law union, Marlene did not realise he was not occupying that Fidelis Heights home. It would have been her duty to report him.

And, if “Michael Carew” did have so many homes, he should not have received a HDC house in the first place.

And the Integrity Commission?

It is as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike or a bible in a whore house. When can we vote to just disband the damn thing?

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About Mr. Live Wire

Mr. Live Wire
Mr. Live Wire is an avid news reader who translates media reports for persons who can handle the truth. And satire. Unlike Jack Nicholson, he rarely yells.

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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    but misses the point: Did SugarDaddy already own a home? Does the statues and regulations that apply hold up to scrutiny when the spousal beneficiary is not in legal wedlock? Do these statutes and regulations only apply in the strict confines of legal, certified marriage?
    in as far as Rowley is defending his ministerial appointee, he must also respect the fact that there are several outstanding issues that have never been suitably resolved RE: the beneficial relationships of Marlene and her common-law spouse and her ministry.

  2. Lol!
    All I will do with a paywall is allow free pirate sites to rip off my content. And I haven’t the money or time to go after them all.
    Right now, our news is at an unbeatable price. And that is my protection from pirates!

  3. Lol. It won’t happen Keith and Shaun. I had that option already. Some businessmen were not keen on investing unless I created a direct revenue stream. But I started it on my own anyway.
    I know you need to create revenue to expand. But I won’t go down that route because i think it is not practical in the long term online.

  4. It’s a big opportunity for you actually Lasana. There’s virtually no other online news source for T&T outside those 3 right now. Even the television news is a dying model. I recently got a Roku steaming box and there’s so many app based news available on there. Even the big ones like CNN and Bloomberg have a free feed that I watch all my news on now. Who will be first to the race in T&T?

  5. ..When men get big enough expect anything. LOL..

  6. ..I haven’t bought a news PAPER in years..

  7. The truth is staring everyone in the face. Online and print cannot co-exist in the long term. So which one wins? The answer is obvious.
    But let them try to fight against time. I will continue pressing on with Wired868 in the meantime. 😉

  8. I have stopped going on the Express website because it’s a waste of my time now. The Newsday still free and most of the Guardian online. I’m sure they recover most of the cost from advertising. I get that making online access free can harm the regular circulation and most of the major newspapers here in the USA you pay for full online access. Personally I wouldn’t pay to read it but it’s certainly something to weigh the pros and cons.

  9. I know they will argue that people should not expect to get news for nothing. And they have a point. But it is a new world and they need to adapt their business model to suit.

  10. Not a stretch but a reality. They are supposed to be our watchdogs regardles of which Party is in power.

  11. Does anyone else think the decision of the mainstream media to retreat behind online paywalls could have an impact on the dissemination of news, which could potentially benefit wrongdoers in the future?
    Or is that a stretch?

  12. Great article and great quote ” Because integrity is not what a law book says. It is what it does not say….” Thank you for ‘asking’ the obvious questions.
    and where is the media? I’m not claiming PNM bias, but where is the investigative journalism. Here are some obvious questions that can be easily investigated:
    1. Did Carew inhabit the house (talk to de neighbours)
    2. Confirm that the ‘assistant’ who wrote the note was actually employed with the Minister, and perhaps interview her
    3. Provide the current market value compared to the price paid (approx 400k)

  13. Re: Integrity Commission-the irony is if there has to be a question about conduct, then prrobably it was not the right decision; the actions of persons of integrity are (usually) above scrutiny. How would President Hassanali have handled such a situation? And I am glad you pointed out the rental of 1 Alexandra-I would ask what is the difference between that and the 34m from Lufesport-both benefitted for doing nothing as the building remained unoccupied.

  14. How has Marlene Mc ‘Doogle’ and Fitzgerald Hinds benefited their communities as MPs? What has Dr. Rowley done for his constituency for the past three decades?

    The reason for the recent outcry is because Dr. Rowley fooled persons into thinking that the PNM was against corruption. The history of the PNM tells a different story. This is not about UNC/PNM, but about the culture of corruption in this country, and about politicians behaving as though the State’s resources belongs to them – for their own benefit.

    Michael Carew benefited but Marlene did no wrong. Faris’ wife benefits, but he didn’t. Franklyn Khan’s wife benefitted via ‘her’ ‘construction company’ and questionable contracts, but he didn’t.

    Did anyone actually believe the PNM propaganda pre-election? That was like believing the former PM saying that she had no idea of what was going on under her leadership.

  15. What if the wife of a Police Officer was caught shiping cocaine, then said Police Officer is made Commissioner of Police, would there not be an issue?
    In a simialr way, Mr. Carew breached a known policy, and his sugar mama is made Minister of Housing who has influence on policy.

    As for Faris….well, he can see nothing legally wrong. Did he see something wrong when he was an advocate and a witness in a same matter? How about when he was an advocate for a company and was seeking to argue for a policy in Parliament that would directly benefit his client in a matter that he was at the material time treating with?

    How about bashing the PP Government for the high cost of renting buildings but whose wife was a beneficiary of millions from an unoccupied building being rented by the Govt? BTW, is that building still being rented by the present Govt? Isn’t that wastage in these ‘hard’ times?

  16. But all this allows for self-serving persons to get into office. I read somewhere that the Minister was instrumental in making inroads in the constituency hence was rewarded with her post. Now, if we singing ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country, and she willingly gave of her time, would the story have been different if there was no expectation/promise of reward? The same goes for other members of the party. Is it that ppl are only active in politics to benefit self rather than country, and if not rewarded? If we cannot grasp this basic concept-it wrong for all-and start dealing with it, I don’t know what legacy we leaving for the up- coming generation.

  17. Marlene bony Narkene. My apologies Adrian Clarke, did not mean to bring you back into this

  18. The biggest issue I have us why Narkene had some small time assistant write s letter when she could have just asked the Housing Minister at the time for the hook up during a Cabinet break?

  19. Someone tried to explain that MPs have housing allocations. Not the point. Those should be for special needs.
    Would it be okay if the allocation was five and I gave them to my wife, sisters and children?

    • MPs can allocate 25% at their discretion. Whether the policy says ‘special needs’ im not sure. If it doesnt. It should. There is a lot that is wrong about HDC policy…and that got lost in the noise. So I left the noise.

  20. Is how many weeks ago I said similar?

  21. “Did ‘Michael Carew’ provide any patriotic duty—to Marlene or otherwise—that would constitute national service?” Hahaha! No comment

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