Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley responding to questions in Parliament on Friday.

Laundromats are less crowded locations to open than doubles stands.

And the law firm to which Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s wife is attached has been paid “zero, zilch, nada, nothing” regarding a matter for the Officer of the Prime Minister since the case is not completed.

Those were among Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s points in Parliament yesterday to Opposition questions.

Naparima MP Rodney Charles had queried the data which informed Government’s decision to reopen laundromats.

Rowley said Government took the position in managing the pandemic that they would reduce the community’s exposure.

With laundromats, he said it was determined large numbers could be served by a few people acting in a situation that doesn’t expose the public. He noted how people were served in laundries and with health protocols in laundromats, they could be opened without increasing risk to the public.

On why outdoor restaurant sales couldn’t be reopened, he said restaurants involve large numbers of people in closed quarters for significant periods and that’s not the case in laundromats.

He said dropping off clothes at a laundromat – physically distanced and masked – with few people working there, was quite different to restaurants where large numbers of people were involved and exposed for significant periods.

Rowley said Government intends to open as many facets of Trinidad and Tobago as possible and will do so with laundromats and other areas as risk level’s are determined.

Charles queried why family doubles businesses couldn’t open as they‘re largely outside and large numbers don’t congregate.

Rowley said “We’re talking about the numbers of people congregating in the exercise and all the meals in this country- there’s nothing different or special about doubles. We shut down restaurants as it involves a large number of people. We also closed restaurants of all descriptions- I don’t know what is his doubles problem!“

Rowley said at the first opportunity it appears these things can be done without significantly increasing the risk to people, the government would act.

Rowley called on the Opposition to stop trying to differentiate in such a way aimed at giving the impression that certain people were being disadvantaged inappropriately while others were being favoured, “That’s not true!:

He said he would love “tomorrow” to open the entire country as the Opposition’s “irresponsible leader is asking me to” but because this country is in a pandemic and he had the responsibility of making the call, he would do so to protect every citizen.

“What’s your obsession with Al-Rawi’s wife?“

Charles also queried the amount of money paid to the firm of Al-Rawi, Haynes Soo-Hon and Company thus far by OPM regarding a pre-action protocol letter from the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha on changes in scholarship criteria.

Rowley said, “The quantum is zero, zilch, nada, nothing – none. At this point the matter’s in court. At the appropriate time, a bill will be issued and payment will be made.“

He said the Office of the Prime Minister required from time to time to seek legal help and that’s done through the permanent secretary or Attorney General and prime ministers aren’t involved to personally select the law firm.

He said there was no procurement procedure in his division to identify any citizen to be discriminated against or favoured. He said this business involved the hiring of probably hundreds of lawyers and he failed to see – “other than a certain kind of unmentionable” – what Charles was obsessed about with a law firm in which a Parliament Member’s wife is a partner.

Rowley said it’s very unbecoming to target a Member’s wife in that way. He said no law was broken and he was unaware of any wrongdoing, Charles said it was taxpayers’ money and people were interested.

Rowley said he knew it was taxpayers’ money but that didn’t mean Charles “ had to behave like that.”

He noted the AG last week issued a list of 200 firms of attorneys who advised the State.

He asked Charles, “What is the obsession with the Attorney General’s wife’?…. I just said she received no fee and the matter’s in court – what is your obsession with the man’s wife?!”