Madam PM, please explain
EVEN as the Government is tackling the fallout from the “New Flying Squad” affair, Opposition Leader Keith Rowley has made some serious allegations about Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s handling of this country’s national security.
Dr Rowley’s allegation resurrects the first major scandal to hit the People’s Partnership administration — the now infamous Reshmi Ramnarine matter. Speaking at a political meeting last Tuesday, the PNM leader read out letters which he claimed had been written by Senior Supt Surajdeen Persad in response to a request by the Prime Minister.
According to Dr Rowley, it was Mr Persad’s advice which led to the elevation of the unqualified Ms Ramnarine from clerk to director and the subsequent firing of personnel from the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA). Mr Persad was supposedly approached by Mrs Persad-Bissessar about illegal wiretaps, an issue which she had previously claimed to have a file on. That file was never produced but, according to the letters made public by Dr Rowley, Mr Persad provided Mrs Persad-Bissessar with a list of SIA employees who were providing the PNM with intelligence on the Government.
The Prime Minister cannot remain silent on these allegations. The Reshmi Ramnarine affair has never been satisfactorily explained, although Mrs Persad-Bissessar in a 2011 interview with the Express did admit that “Reshmi” had been her “biggest mistake”. Now she must either deny categorically that she approached Senior Supt Persad for this information or, if she did in fact use him, explain her rationale for doing so.
Dr Rowley has stated that the firing of key SIA personnel had been done for political reasons, given that Mr Persad stated that certain individuals were PNM supporters and hence working to undermine the Government. Contrary to Dr Rowley’s implied assumption, however, this is not impossible. Indeed, it may even be probable that, under the Patrick Manning administration, such persons were hand-picked from the ranks of party loyalists precisely because of the sensitivity of the intelligence they were mandated to obtain. If Dr Rowley knows that the individuals named were not PNM supporters and were not supplying information to former prime minister Manning, he should state how he knows this.
Nonetheless, the onus remains with Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and Mr Persad to explain these letters. Mr Persad now occupies a key post as director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and, in the same way he found PNM loyalists to be unfit for these positions in the SIA, then he must also be deemed unsuitable for such an office if he obtained it because of party loyalty to the United National Congress.
With crime once again out of control, many citizens are anxiously waiting for the Prime Minister to address all these national security concerns.