Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Blythe again flays critics at support rally
DALTON LAING, Observer correspondent
Tuesday, May 07, 2002



Member of parliament for Central Westmoreland and former water and housing minister, Dr Karl Blythe (right), greets the crowd of People's National Party supporters who attended yesterday's march and rally to support him in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland. (Photo: Conroy Walker)

THOUSANDS of orange-clad People's National Party (PNP) supporters yesterday staged a march and rally in Savanna-la-Mar in support of former water and housing minister Dr Karl Blythe, giving him a platform from which he again flayed critics of his Central Westmoreland Trust.

The march and rally, apparently arranged by Blythe's constituency machinery, came just under two weeks after the parliamentary Opposition charged that Blythe had negotiated with a state-run bank for money to be loaned to the trust for housing projects and that Blythe had entered into joint venture agreements with himself whereby the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) financed at least two projects totalling $180 million in his constituency.

A section of the large crowd of People's National Party supporters who marched in support of former water and housing minister, Dr Karl Blythe, in Westmoreland yesterday. (Photo: Conroy Walker)

Yesterday, Blythe, who had previously denied the charges, again dismissed the claims that the Central Westmoreland Trust had acted improperly.

According to Blythe, the trust had actually lost money, in the interest of providing housing for the poor.

"Over at Walter Cheddesingh (housing scheme) when we did the first development, we sold the lots for $175,000 and before we finished with the developments the lots valued $1.5 million," he told the crowd.

"We lost over $50 million on that scheme in the interest of poor people and yet they talk about scandal in the Westmoreland Trust."

Since he resigned from the Cabinet on April 11, after a government-commissioned probe portrayed him as a minister who interfered in the operations of the NHDC and cut corners to speed up the allocation of housing solutions, Blythe has been insisting that he did nothing wrong and has declared that he had no regrets for providing shelter for the poor.

Blythe, in his resignation letter to Prime Minister P J Patterson, had said he was stepping aside to ensure that there is no semblance of blemish on his integrity while further investigations are carried out into the operations of the NHDC and Operation PRIDE, the government's shelter programme. He had also told Patterson that he preferred to become "exclusively engaged on the political front".

Yesterday at the rally, Blythe spoke to that decision. "In taking me out of that (ministry) they put me on the solid political track," he told the throng that turned out for the hour-and-a-half-long march through the streets of Savanna-la-Mar.

The marchers, who started their trek at the PNP constituency office on Lewis Street, twice made their way across the main Great George's Street and then on to Independence Park for the rally.

In an interview with the Observer, Blythe admitted that when he first heard of the rally he was concerned that not many PNP supporters would have been able to make it because of the time it was scheduled to start.

"When I heard about the march and the time that it was going to be held, I got a little nervous, seeing that it was on a Monday and at 12 noon," he said. "But this (turnout) goes to show the level of support that the PNP is getting in Central (Westmoreland)."