Trinidad and Tobago government rocked by email scandal - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Trinidad and Tobago government rocked by email scandal

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad -Bissessar and Winston Dookeran – Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Courtesy of Trinidad Express) 

A thread of potentially incriminating emails reportedly to have been exchanged between top-ranking government officials in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar led People’s Partnership Government was at the heart of the  no confidence vote brought by opposition leader Keith Rowley Monday.

The parliamentary debate saw a chain of issues: from the proclamation of section 34, a possible intention to cause physical harm to Guardian journalist Denyse Renne, the tapping of the phone lines in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), bribes to the DPP and the implication of chief justice Ivor Archie by the Opposition leader.

  • Section 34 is a part of the legal code that would assign statutes of limitation for certain crimes, in particular fraud and money laundering.

Rowley revealed that such email exchanges took place between email addresses kamlapb1@gmail.com, anan@gmail.com, anand@tstt.net.tt, surujrambachan@hotmail.com and one Captain Griffith, discussing matters that could affect the government and or key Ministers negatively.

Rowley, the Diego Martin West MP, also said some of the email addresses are known to him.

One of the emails from Anand to captain Griffith sought Griffith’s intervention regarding a story the parties in the email did not want published. The email demanded that Griffith threaten the Guardian with regards to advertising so that the article will not come out. The next day on September 9, an article appeared with a front page that read: “piarco airport inquiry to be dropped.”

Anand pursued Captain Griffith for his help the same day. Another email says: “call a meeting, we need to talk urgently.”

Someone referred to as PM in the emails then called a special meeting the next day on Monday Sept. 10, 2012.

An email from Kamlapbl@gmail.com to Anand asked: “what is going on, how could this happen, I thought you had friends in the Guardian.”

Anand replies: “I saw the article, not to worry, remember the opposition supported this, that will be our defence.”

Thirty-one of the emails and its contents were disclosed  over a period of 17 days in September 2012 – a time that coincided with the government’s requirement to deal with a certain matter explained the opposition leader.

“When corroborated, the known and unknown paints a frightening future,” Rowley noted.

Starting off in not so revealing terms, an email was sent on Sept. 17, from email address anan@gmail.com, which read: “Kim my lady please relax, everything in place we will soon chat.”

A few hours later a response from email address kamlapb1@gmail.com at 2:00 a.m. saying: “I am worried AG, I do not want this to blow up in our faces.”

In a follow up between Kamlab1@gmail.com to anan@gmail.com: “are you sure everything is in place? Did you chat with the DPP and find out about this, try and find out? By the way, she says you are asking for much money.”

Describing the email messages as corroboratory proof of events happening in the country at the time of the exchanges, the opposition leader said something happened in August 2012 when the government secretly announced and proclaimed Section 34 legislation had passed in the house. Rowley said. Trinidad and Tobago was not the same.

The opposition leader chided the government for what he said was their use of the entire State’s machinery to try to explain itself, but no one was able to answer a simple question: “why was section 34 extracted, piece meal, why was it done?” Rowley said the government was never able to answer that question.

The emails disclosed how the government would blame the opposition for their role in the proclamation of section 34, having voted for it, and even hold the DPP complicit in the matter. The email further pointed to former Minister Herbert Volney’s termination being a mere distraction and a red herring in the matter.

Another email message read: “we are the ones taking the risk at the end of this I want a helipad on my roof top, there is no price for freedom.”

“Whose freedom was being discussed?  Whose freedom was being bought?” Rowley asked?

Speaker Wade Mark then warned the opposition leader that he must take responsibility for the content of all letters and all emails read in the house. Rowley replied with a quote about freedom of speech and responsibility, assuring his every intention to take full responsibility.

Leader of opposition Keith Rowley. (Trinidad Express)

Opposition Leader Keith Rowley. (Trinidad Express)

Recently, Rowley had accused the government of engaging in criminal conspiracy, an accusation he said he laid at the president’s house. He did so shortly after receiving the package with the allegedly incriminating emails. Before taking them to parliament Rowley ensured they were genuine. “When I saw the emails my first reaction was to ensure that it was not frivolous, I wanted to be sure that the information from the whistle blower was serious,” Rowley said.

When he was satisfied Rowley took them to the president’s house. After six months, when he saw the matter was not dealt with, Rowley thought it was time to take it to the people through the parliament.

Essentially this package of emails led the opposition to call a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister for the second time in so many months.

Rowley said he brought it as a substantive motion to let the people of this country know what happened and why this government cannot be taken at face value.

Undermining his own case,  Rowley said, “What is bothersome is that the emails can mean anything.”

But Rowley’s case is bolstered by what seems to be an an intense and frantic point of the email exchanges. Kamlapb1@gmail.com told Anand,: “Deal with this mess.”

Anand replied, expressing his doubt that the Guardian reporter had proof to publish an article the parties in the email would rather not go public. Anand then assured that he will retain a lawyer to refute whatever the reporter writes.

Later, a release was posted by the Attorney General on the Trinidad and Tobago website, taking issue with the article.

Following this, a follow up email from Anand to Kamlapb1 read, “Don’t worry, I just sent out a release.”

Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business - Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilal. (Trinidad Express)

Prime MinisterKamla Persad-Bissessar and Leader of Government Business Minister Roodal Moonilal. (Trinidad Express)

Rowley said, “I view this as corroboration of intent in the email, and it arriving on the website.”

Another email from Anand read: “We need access to tap the DPP’s office. We have a problem, things are getting heated.  I need access to tap in the DPP’s office.  I want to know what his next move is, how soon can you arrange?”

Captain Griffith replies seven days later: “I will call SSA (Strategic Services Agency) and get B (head of the SSA Bisnath Maharaj), Dhanpat is out of the country; he will be against this move, you know he leaks.’

Anand wrote, “I gave instructions to B to send him Germany for this week.”

Another email from captain to Anand: “Everything is already in place in DPP office, nothing is out of the ordinary yet, spoke with PM and she is serious about the article.”

Anand wrote,  “What about the reporter tap her as well? Guardian says she has a copy of Lewis’s advice…”

Next email from Anand said: “That effing whore don’t have “S” on me, more than likely – Do a trace on her, every reporter has skeletons in their closet…and post it to our FB (Facebook) people.”

Rowley then explained there was a viciously slanderous attack on Guardian reporter Denyse Renn, which went viral on Facebook.

A message from Captain Griffith messaged that this action will take the heat off for a while.

The messages continued, from Kamlapbl to anand@gmail, on Tuesday Sept. 10, 2012: “The US contacted me and are ‘effing’ angry, I thought you had a hold on this, this will cause major backlash, come up with a plan AG.”

Rowley said the US Embassy took serious issue with how the Trinidad and Tobago government handled the extradition matter concerning Ish and Steve, and a statement from DPP saying “it took me by surprise.”

  • “Ish and Steve” refers to businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, two men indicted in the United States for wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money through the Piarco Airport Development Project. The alleged crimes took place in Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, according to the FBI and U.S. federal prosecutors.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, (Trinidad Express)

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. (Trinidad Express)

The “emails pointing to state of mind, state of play to trouble that was coming in the morning,” Rowley said of this potential scandal.

The opposition leader believes the collaboration of the parties in the email exchanges was meant to protect persons facing serious criminal charges at home and abroad. “Question is why did you extract section 34 and proclaim it? What we had was the government handing us the head of the justice Minister on a platter even though he said not me, the AG.”

An email from kamlapbl, on Sept. 11 said: “Right now our best bet will be giving Gaspard a position on the bench and bring in a replacement. We could also feed our media people that Gaspard was part of the consultation this year and he did not have a problem.”

Rowley claimed, “[the] action is to place DPP in a position to hold him complicit.”

The emails also saw chief justice Ivor Archie being tangled in this alleged conspiracy if investigations by the cybercrime unit can reveal the real names of the parties involved in the emails and whose devices they were sent from.

Kamlapb1 wrote: “Have a chat with Archie, let them offer him the position, Archie is normally cooperative”

Kamlap1 replied: “Have you dealt with the mess yet, we are getting bad press, deal with this AG.”

Questions were raised between the parties in the email exchanges as to how reporter Renne knew so much, who is her source and the pursuit of her track record followed.

Emails circulating  with details about Denyse Renne’s past and other information that she refuted as lies.

Another  response via email from Anand  to surujrambachan@hotmail.com, titled: Deal with the problem: “This bitch is becoming a problem to me; I am told she has copies of documents and possible cheques. I don’t want to leave anything to chance, I passed info to FB (Facebook) and they would eff her up, do something else to slow her…PM is angry, I assured her I will deal with this. Deal with this bitch soon,” the email went on.

Rowley asked the speaker of the house Wade Mark to look at the corroboration revolving in this issue and how it connects to what was happening in the country at the time: The section 34 issue; a plan to foil the extradition of Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to the US; and the US’s response expressing disappointment about the action taken to protect Ish and Steve and the breaking stories by journalist Denyse Renne.

The vote of “no confidence” against the government is the third time the opposition has struck the People’s Partnership Government with this less than a complimentary vote. It happened twice in 2012.

With the government’s 29 to 12 majority in the lower house the motion of no confidence is merely symbolic. It cannot remove the government from office, but it does provide insight into what opposition considers to be crucial issues pertaining to governance and the running of the country.

Update: Read what the government has to say here.

 

 


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.
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