Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday condemned Member of Parliament for Oropouche East Dr. Roodal Moonilal for comments which, Rowley said, were meant as a “dog whistle” to certain people suggesting that the government was using its power to persecute people of East Indian descent.
Rowley delivered the rebuke during a 6.30am news conference at Piarco International Airport before leaving the country for a medical check-up in the US. He is scheduled to return by the end of next week and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert will act as prime minister during his absence.
Rowley said Moonilal, in commenting on Tuesday’s arrest of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, alleged the move was oppression by the government. He said Moonilal was “implying that it is executive action by the Cabinet and this party, not actions of an independent police under the guidance of an independent Director of Public Prosecutions ,where the requirements are for information to be converted into evidence and for evidence to be acted upon under the guidance and watchful eye of the DPP, a place where the Cabinet has no presence or involvement.”
Rowley continued, “He is saying that this arrest of his former colleague is political action on the part of the government and he went further to say it is action against persons of East Indian background and he named a number of East Indians who had been through the court process and attaches this recent development to it and is indicating to the country that the law enforcement in this country is based on your racial complexion.”
He said Moonilal, however, neglected to tell the country that he, himself, was under investigation by the police in connection with the alleged mishandling of more than $400 million at the Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited (EMBD) in August 2015, just before the last election.
Rowley said the Attorney General’s office and a State enterprise had gone to court to complain about eight or ten people, including Moonilal, who were named in connection with that matter.
Furthermore, Rowley said the course of events which led to Ramlogan’s arrest had its genesis in the previous administration. “Let me remind the national community (that) under the last government, one day we woke up and the news that came out of the government was that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had fired the attorney general and also fired the minister of national security of that government for allegations of wrongdoing that would have taken place on the part of persons in that government.
“That took place before the last general election under the instruction and the hand of Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The police, under the instructions of acting Commissioner (Stephen) Williams, opened an investigation into these matters and that investigation has been going on and has gone on continuously to the point where, a few days ago, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan was arrested with respect to charges levelled against him.”
Reached for comment yesterday, Moonilal told Newsday he is considering suing Rowley for slander and intends to send a letter, upon his return, asking for particulars of the accusation made against him and “the police investigation into the EMBD and whatever possible involvement I have had in that.”
He also issued a statement in which he accused Rowley of executing an early morning “hit and run” attack against him and other members of the Opposition.
Moonilal told Newsday Rowley gave information which suggested that he had “intimate and personal” knowledge of an ongoing police investigation “and he has also come to a conclusion saying when I am in court as if he is certain that I will be charged.”
Asking how Rowley would know this, Moonilal recalled the prime minister once expressed no confidence in the Police Service to curb crime in TT. He said he had written to Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams who had not yet responded. He said he was not aware he was the subject of any investigation and he had never been questioned or spoken to about it. Moonilal said Rowley’s statement was reckless and constituted misbehaviour in public office for which he would also consider reporting Rowley to the Integrity Commission.
He claimed the prime minister’s latest comments suggest he has done a 180 degree turn on the issue. Moonilal also alleged this raises the question as to whether there is, “collusion between elements of the police service and the political directorate.”
Vowing that neither the Opposition nor himself will be silenced, Moonilal said it was unfortunate Rowley chose to, “sow the seeds of division in our nation.”
He regretted that Rowley did not use the briefing to comfort the people of Tobago that transportation problems on the seabridge would be resolved soon or address lingering concerns over the re-appointment of Robert Le Hunte as Public Utilities minister. Le Hunte was sworn in, for a second time, on Thursday (Independence Day).