OPPOSITION MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has been removed from sitting on any joint select committees relating to National Security after he was deemed to be “conflicted” as he and other UNC members were connected to criminals.
The connection is fleshed out in a 139 interim report of the JSC which held in-camera meetings with National Security Minister Stuart Young and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on several days. The committee met after Young repeatedly and publicly stated that he had information linking the Opposition to criminal elements.
The committee includes government members Randall Mitchell, Nicole Olivierre, Nigel De Freitas and Robert Le Hunte, Independent Senator Paul Richards, and opposition members Moonilal and Saddam Hosein.
Following the laying of the report, Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, Camille Robinson-Regis said if Moonilal had any decency he would have done what the JSC asked and recused himself instead of forcing the Parliament to remove him from all meetings of the JSC on National Security for the rest of the parliamentary period
“Clearly it is impossible and going against fairness and decency for Moonilal to be on the committee. If he had any decency he would have recused himself. Given the fact that he has refused to do that, it is incumbent on me as Leader of Government Business to request, no demand that he be removed permanently as this committee will have to deal with National Security issues. I beg to move that with immediate effect he not sit on the JSC on National Security.”
Reading from the report she said given that the committee was just about to gather evidence in the form of written submissions and since no findings were yet made it would have been prudent Moonilal recuse himself as he has a “personal and direct interest in the inquiry and should not be allowed to participate further.”
Robinson-Regis’ demand was adhered to after the members in the house went to a vote with 17 Government MPs voting that he be removed and 13 Opposition MPs voting that he stayed.
Chairman of the JSC on National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, told Newsday that Moonilal’s refusal to recuse himself stymied the completion of the JSC reports and as a result only the interim report could be laid. The JSC met after Young said he knew opposition members were in contact with criminals. At the time he refused to call any names but made utterances. In the report, Young still did not call names but made inferences that one of the people involved was Moonilal.
Genesis of the JSC
Young went before the committee on January 29, after claiming on a political platform last year that opposition members were colluding with criminals. He stood by that claim at a post-Cabinet media briefing, saying that the spike in crime at the end of December was a terrorist attack fuelled by political mischief.
“The question then began to be even more emphasised: who is it that stands to derive the most benefit from sudden spikes in the murder rate and the narrative of a murder-rate in an upward direction?” Young asked at the post-Cabinet briefing.
Before he appeared to the committee, Young alleged certain people wanted to create a sense of fear and panic about runaway crime. Young recalled that on December 31, 2019, an off-duty police officer stopped a carload of men firing automatic rifles at non-criminals in the heart of Port of Spain.
After Moonilal called on him to disclose who were the politicians who allegedly colluded with known criminals, the JSC sat to look into the statements Young made.
Griffith: Opposition promised $ to criminals in return for political help
Griffith told the committee there was intelligence that the Opposition promised some $42 million to criminals, to be paid via two state contracts, if they helped get the Opposition back into power.
During his time before the JSC Griffith said there was a man with a serious criminal record that appeared on a UNC political platform.
“Links between politicians and gang leaders have proven to be the catalyst towards homicides in this country” the report stated adding that there was a planned meeting of two gangsters to be held at the constituency office of an opposition MP.
Griffith, however, said there was no evidence that the December 31 shooting had any political connections and while there were intelligence of criminals meeting politicians and criminals wanting to increase the murder toll, the two were not connected.
The report, dated February 26 stated that Young went before the committee on January 29. According to the report, an unnamed deputy political leader of the Opposition was telephoned by an incarcerated Carapo man and told that another Carapo man should be selected to represent the area in the December local government elections. This conversation took place on September 5, Young told the committee.
Young said he was told on November 14 last year that on November 8 an Opposition MP met with criminals at Hyatt Regency Hotel and paid a bill of $580 for the men after the men became rowdy and police had to be called in. This was confirmed by Griffith.
Moonilal defends himself.
Following the removal, Moonilal, in a WhatsApp response to Newsday said Young owed police an apology for abusing confidential reports.
“Minister Young must apologise to the police for abusing purported confidential reports and information for political purposes in an election year. This is diabolical, not even Martin Joseph would have done that. The Minister also admitted that he is spying on the Police Commissioner in the report. How did the Minister know where the CoP is meeting anyone?"
He added: “Minister Young must go on these grounds alone, he has abused his office and used the police to promote a diabolical political plot. (The Government) suspended the standing orders, tabled a motion without notice, and refused to debate the report only to throw me out. It is the stuff that political suicide is made off.”
In a minority report signed by Hosein and Moonilal, the opposition MP claimed Hinds was biased against Moonilal. He submitted that he was denied the opportunity to question Griffith on what he presented and there were factual inconsistencies with the report. The minority report stated that none of the comments made by Young were supported with documentary evidence.