Emailgate: Trinidad and Tobago government slam opposition leader; Emails are fake - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Emailgate: Trinidad and Tobago government slam opposition leader; Emails are fake

“The allegations made during the debate by members of the opposition are malicious, false, misleading and scandalous. It amounts to misleading the house and may even amount to a Contempt of Parliament.”

This and a request for the police to investigate a chain of emails implicating top government officials was the swift response of the People’s Partnership government to opposition leader Keith Rowley’s claims that the government was plotting criminal activities in high office. Rowley made the claim in a no-confidence motion he brought against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her cabinet. The motion was debated in the Parliament Monday May 20, 2013.

Trinidad and Tobago denied any involvement in the email exchanges purporting to show that the Prime Minister, her Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Works and infrastructure and local government Minister Suruj Rambachan and her national security advisor captain Gary Griffith were conspiring to bug the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to cause grievous bodily harm to journalist Denyse Renne and to bribe the DPP into accepting the offer of becoming a judgel

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago said in a statement: “The People’s Partnership Government categorically refutes any authorship in the series of printouts of alleged electronic mails between members of the government during a period of September 2012. The content of the print-outs as read into the Parliamentary debate this afternoon (Monday 20, 2013) would be inadmissible under any general rule of evidence and we challenge the Leader of the Opposition to authenticate these messages.”

Dates on the e-mails were inconsistent with the calendar.

Dates on the emails were inconsistent with the calendar.

The government also challenged the opposition leader to repeat his allegations outside the Parliament chamber, without the protection of the cloak of the house.

“The people of Trinidad and Tobago should take note that in this era of technology, it is easy to forge e-mail accounts, or to create accounts that are either very similar or appears to be an authentic existing email,” the release stated.

The government press release said, “If a series of print outs, without any well-established electronic verification process, is the foundation of the Leader of the Opposition’s No Confidence Motion in the Government; then the motion is being built on nothing more than a fictitious and fabricated paper foundation and adds nothing to the development of the People of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The government implored the media to note the comments by the Speaker of the House Wade Mark during the debate, when he said that members must take ownership and full responsibility for the content of all emails being read into the Hansard of the house.

The government also said, “We note too that it points to a significant criminal act to have either concocted the emails or to have knowingly relied on such a malicious fabrication. That is indeed a matter that we would seek to investigate.”

The same day of the debate (Monday, May 20) Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar wrote a letter to Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams to investigate the claims made by the opposition leader.

When trying to contact one of these e-mails the error code said that e-mail address didn't exist.

When trying to contact one of these emails the error code said that e-mail address didn’t exist.

Extract from letter:

“Dear Commissioner,

Today, Monday 20th May 2013, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition shared with the Government, correspondence which he stated came into his possession several months ago.

The correspondence, purporting to be email exchanges between government office holders, alleges serious criminal conduct. I hereby request that you cause an investigation into these very serious allegations and ascertain the authenticity of those emails and take such action as is required according to the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

Please see email correspondence attached.”

After carefully studying the content of the emails, AG Ramlogan shared with the media a number of discrepancies he found.

There were questionable dates and at least one invalid email address: anan@gmail.com which the Attorney General explained is not permissible by Google because a person needs a six letter character to set up a gmail account.

AG Ramlogan said, “We’ve discovered that short usernames at popular domains receive significantly more spam since they’re easy to automatically generate. Gmail’s requirement that all user names be at least six characters in length is meant to keep spam out of your inbox. (Dots or periods don’t count as characters when creating your username.)”

This reporter sent an email to the address (anan@gmail.com) with the message bouncing back almost immediately, showing the address as nonexistent.

Messages were sent from two email addresses anan@gmail.com, anand@tstt.net.tt simultaneously to kamlapb1@gmail.com; impossible noted the AG arguing that the computer would not have recognized the command and such a message could not have been sent.

Once the suspect e-mails were examined it became clear at least some of them were fraudulent.

Once the suspect emails were examined it became clear at least some of them were fraudulent.

Written in one of the emails is the date: Wed 11 Sept, 2012 which the AG pointed out as wrong. The AG said Sept. 11, 2012 was a Tuesday. This was just an example of several inaccurate dates in the batch of emails. Another instance is the date 9/06/12 – appearing in what the AG said is a wrong (British) format and can be seen in several of the thirty-one email messages read out by opposition leader Rowley. It should have read: Thurs, 6 Sept, 2012.

Following presentations by other government ministers on the motion, Rowley gave his rebuttal arguing that email messages can be sent simultaneously; when two of the same addresses are placed in the “From” section of the email template.

The opposition leader who admitted to not being tech savvy did not realize that instead, a message can be sent to two or more email addresses but a message cannot be sent from several email addresses to the receiver.

Leaving footprints of doubt Rowley questions: “Suppose the contents of one or two is true? Suppose one of them is right?”

This comment inflamed the government further and as Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar rose to rebut the opposition leader’s claims, Rowley and the rest of the members of the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) walked out on the Prime Minister.

The prime minister said, to desk thumping and laughter on the government side, she did not know that people were so frightened to hear her speak.

Later, the opposition leader explained that the Prime Minister did not participate in the debate and was allowed by house speaker Wade Mark to wrap up the no-confidence motion debate in spite of her non-participation in the session.

The house speaker made the ruling in accordance with Parliament’s standing order section 34.2, to which the Prime Minister reiterated that the standing order gives her the right to have the final say in the non-confidence debate.

Google does not allow gmail usernames with less than six characters.

Google does not allow gmail usernames with less than six characters.

In her rebuttal, the Prime Minister chided Rowley on one of the errors found in the email exchanges he read out. An email address that ended with .con as oppose to .com, which the Prime Minister said is used for the purpose of games. “And this is what he came here to do Mr. Speaker, to play games; to con this house into believing his games on the email claims,” Persad-Bissessar said.

One of the main triggers of the no-confidence debate motion was the section 34 issue and what appeared to be a conspiratorial effort by supposed government officials to not allow the matter to flare up in the public domain.

The opposition leader said the Prime Minister did not respond to former President George Maxwell Richards’s concerns about section 34. Persad-Bissessar told the house in the absence of the opposition leader and his team that she did not respond to two of the President’s letters; neither will she divulge confidential communication between the office of the Prime Minister and the office of the President.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar disagreed with Rowley’s position that the Trinidad and Tobago police are not equiped to investigate the e-mail exchanges. The Prime Minister said that when the opposition leader attacked the government for undermining state institutions, he (Rowley) launched an unfair attack on the police.

Persad-Bissessar reckoned that Rowley should have taken the batch of e-mails to the police to be immediately investigated and questioned why he waited six months; since as he claimed, the details of the exchanges contained criminal allegations.

Rowley said he took it to the President at the time who had the authority to take the matter to the Integrity Commission who in turn had the authority to have the matter investigated.

The Prime Minister and the Attorney General disagreed with the opposition leader’s position.

Rowley wants an international body to investigate the e-mail content. The Prime Minister said she has no problems with that either.

At the end of her presentation Persad-Bissessar asked the house to reject the motion. All 26 government members present voted against the motion. There were no abstentions. Persad-Bissessar then asked speaker Mark to have the opposition leader be taken before the privileges committee.

If the dates in the e-mails don't match the calendar, then maybe the e-mails are fake.

If the dates in the emails don’t match the calendar, then maybe the e-mails are fake.

In accordance with the provision of Standing order 27(2) the Prime Minister sought leave to raise the matter as a question of privilege.

Reading from the Hansard records, Persad-Bissessar made a case that the opposition leader misled the house by making statements he knew were false. She further asked for Rowley to be censured for abusing the privilege of free speech afforded in the Parliament.

Speaker Mark said he had to determine if there is a reasonable case to be answered. He had a prima facie case made out and ruled that opposition leader Keith Rowley will have to go before the privileges committee.

In making her case the Prime Minister said: “Mr. Speaker, an examination of the documents reveal that they contains numerous obvious errors, inconsistencies and major discrepancies which suggest that it is a wholly sham document, created for the sole purpose of causing mischief and to maliciously lay false accusations against Members of the Government. It plainly suggests Mr. Speaker that there was a clear intention to mislead this Honourable House.

“I therefore submit that the Leader of the Opposition committed contempt of this House on the following grounds:

  1. He deliberately and willfully misled this House
  2. He recklessly abused the privilege of freedom of speech in this House thereby bringing this House into public ridicule and odium.

“In respect of the first ground, Mr. Speaker, it is my considered opinion that the Leader of the Opposition knew that the document from which he quoted was a mere fabrication or, at the very least, he ought to have known that it was false since this was plainly obvious from the face of the document.”

Rowley faces possible suspension and expulsion among other sanctions when he goes before the disciplinary committee.

Having walked out of the Parliament chamber in protest against the Prime Minister wrapping up the debate, the opposition members did not return to the lower house to vote on their own motion.

The Prime Minister criticized the leadership of the opposition leader (Rowley) for not voting on a motion he brought to the house for debate. She questioned his desire to become Prime Minister in the face of what she sees as his irresponsible behavior.

Rowley explained why he walked out on the Prime Minister, but he is still trying to explain why he and his team did not return to the house to vote on their own motion.

Photo graphics by Dave Persad.


About the author

Marcia Braveboy

Marcia Braveboy is a journalist from Grenada based in Trinidad and Tobago. She has over 20 years experience in media; mainly in copy writing, news and broadcast journalism. Braveboy was a senior reporter at Power 102 FM radio, CNC3 television and producer of the investigative Frontline program on CCN’s i95.5 FM talk-radio station. You can follow Marcia on Twitter: @mbraveboy Contact the author.
COMMENT POLICY

HOME / ABOUT / CONTACT / JOIN THE TEAM / TERMS OF SERVICE / PRIVACY POLICY / COMMENT POLICY