CLEARED of a criminal conspiracy charge in what is now known as the “E-mailgate scandal” five years after the allegations were made, former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it tarnished her character and that of her Cabinet ministers and may have lost her the last general election.
She accused the Rowley government of embarking on a similar witch hunt with the commission of enquiry into the land acquisition for the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway and the “spurious charges” against members of her party including former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, former senator Gerald Ramdeen and chairman of the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation Glen Ram.
She said she was convinced her party members would be eventually cleared, but wondered about the time frame that would take.
“Five years, six years, seven years, eight years?” she asked.
She said it took five years for her name and those of her colleagues to be cleared but the damage had been done.
“It took five years to clear my name and that of others. Elections came and went, and they (PNM) rode into elections with those lies on our heads. Our names tarnished, because look how long after our names are cleared.”
Hours after the police. who sought assistance from the US Department of Justice and FBI, said there was not enough evidence to prosecute the former prime minister and PP ministers for any wrongdoing, Persad-Bissessar said the statements perpetuated by the current Prime Minister against her and her cabinet ministers, “in his grab for power” were what caused the PNM to ride the wave of victory, because many people believed them.
At a news conference in San Fernando on Wednesday evening, she called on Dr Rowley to do the honourable thing – resign and call the election now.
She said the claims he made in Parliament “didn’t just impact here in TT. This made international news around the world.
"He did not care if it was destroying the image of our country. He still does not care. This has really been one of the biggest scandals in the Commonwealth.
"Therefore, the gentleman should do the right thing and resign and call the elections, now.”
She said Rowley's trusted “Gary Sobers of politics,” National Security Minister Stuart Young, who was on record as saying that he quit his private practice to get into politics because of the E-mailgate scandal, should also do the honourable thing and resign.
She also called on Justice Sebastian Ventour, who had been sworn in to head the enquiry into the highway land acquisition, to declare if he had any bias against her party, recalling that he “resigned in a huff and a puff” from the Integrity Commission when it cleared her and her ministers on the same issue.
She said while Dr Rowley used the cloak of parliamentary privilege to make such damning allegations of a criminal nature against them, the matter had been put in the hands of her lawyers to see what action could be taken against him.
She said while a court of law might not judge him, “It would be the court of public opinion that would judge a prime minister who would go to the highest court of the land," to make such statements.
Although she said any child could have seen that the e-mails were fake, she expressed regret that it took so long to be resolved.
“Imagine, if they could do that to a sitting prime minister and a sitting government, what they could do to the ordinary citizens. They are coming to the Parliament and passing all these draconian laws. They say, 'Lock them up! No bail!'"
She recalled former chief secretary of the THA Orville London saying E-mailgate was a big game-decider and at the end of the day one man or one woman would be left standing.
“Today it is one woman left standing,” she insisted.
She called on her members to be strong and courageous because with two elections due, “They will come up with every trick in the book to trump up every charge they can.”
Referring to Rowley’s promise on a public PNM platform that Petrotrin would not be shut down weeks before that was done, and that the refinery would not be sold, she said the government had consistently lied to the population on almost every issue.
“The problem is that it takes so much time for the truth to come out. UNC people, ordinary citizens, right-thinking citizens would see the Rowley government for what it is, a government of lies. They have no credibility,” she said.