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Probe Reshmi affair

By Clint Chan Tack Tuesday, February 8 2011

click on pic to zoom in
Dr Keith Rowley...
Dr Keith Rowley...

OPPOSITION LEADER Dr Keith Rowley yesterday demanded that a criminal investigation be launched to find out what were the circumstances under which an attempt was made to appoint Reshmi Ramnarine as interim director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA).

Rowley also demanded that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar tell the country what was her “personal involvement” in that botched appointment.

“We cannot move on until we know what we’re moving on from. Until the Prime Minister explains her personal involvement in this matter, we will not come to the bottom of this,” he declared during a news conference at his Charles Street office in Port-of-Spain.

On Sunday at a PNM constituency conference in Arouca/Maloney, Rowley vowed to present evidence at yesterday’s news conference that would reveal that Ramnarine’s intended interim appointment was no misstep.

At yesterday’s briefing, Rowley reiterated a claim he made on Sunday that “there are persons who are in a position to have the Prime Minister do what they want out of fear of exposure” but did not present any of the evidence he said he would .

However, Rowley raised more questions for the Government to answer on this issue.

Stating that SSA deputy director Julie Brown has been compromised by recommending Ramnarine as interim SSA director, Rowley questioned whether Brown had anything to do with the selection of 27 employees at the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) who were fired by the Government.

Claiming these 27 workers were some of the most highly trained persons in the SIA, Rowley said, “Until we know what role Julie Brown played in their dismissal, we will not get the full picture because now that we have seen the recommendation that Julie Brown made to the Prime Minister.”

“We now at the level of the Opposition Office are saying that there is need for a criminal investigation to investigate the criminal conspiracy where officers of the State fabricated information, produced that information to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister took it through the Cabinet and we are being told without much discussion,” he declared.

Charging that Brown “fabricated and embellished the qualifications of Miss Ramnarine, including giving her a degree and an acting position in the SIA,” Rowley said, “We are saying that this was all a conspiracy towards a deliberate end and it warrants further detailed investigation to allow persons to be forced to speak the truth to an investigating officer.

“That is the only way that the truth can be told to this country and that is the only way that we will have an assurance that there will not be a repeat.”

Rowley questioned the dismissal of the 27 SIA employees on the grounds they were “caught illegally” spying after Parliament passed the Interception of Communications Bill last December.

Stating the SIA was shut down on October 23, 2010 and its staff denied access to its equipment, Rowley asked: “Where was this illegal spying taking place and how were they fired for illegally spying? Somebody was perusing the personnel files on request and determined that these 27 persons should be fired and they were fired. We have not been told who did that.”

Rowley said while the Opposition had more information available to it on this issue, it would say nothing further at this time because there were “ legal development and legal implications.” However he vowed that until the Government comes clean on this matter, the Opposition “will not be browbeaten or sidetracked by hyperbole.”

On Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) head Colonel Albert Griffith being tipped as interim SSA director, Rowley said: “Certainly, we can’t accept that the same people are still there, seeking to hire somebody else or anybody else for that matter after this sorry record and litany of unanswered questions.”

Rowley disagreed with Persad-Bissessar’s claim that it would take a year to pass legislation that would give Parliament oversight of the new National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which will be formed from the merger of the SSA, SIA and SAUTT. He pledged the Opposition would help Government to draft this legislation and pass it in Parliament.

Asked whether the NIA director should be appointed similar to what obtains for the Commissioner of Police (CoP), Rowley replied: “The CoP arrangement is cumbersome and we want that changed but that does not mean that you cannot have proper procedure where the Parliament has some element of oversight.”

Recalling that Persad-Bissessar has changed her position on this issue from it being a national security to saying the buck stopped with her, Rowley said the “half-baked statement” the Prime Minister made in the House last Friday would not suffice.

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