MAKING HIS POINT: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley pilots his no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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CALL ME SHASHI

Reshmi Usha Ramnarine no longer exists

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

The infamous Reshmi Ramnarine has officially changed her name and is today known as “Shashi Rehka”.
Ramnarine, whose short-lived appointment as head of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) was acknowledged by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to be the biggest mistake of her political career, is currently working on contract with the same Government with whom she was involved in an embarrassing gaffe.
This revelation was made by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley when he piloted a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister in the House of Representative yesterday. The Express has been reliably informed that Ramnarine is employed at the Ministry of Education.
Ramnarine was a close friend of Sasha Mohammed who herself resigned her job as Adviser to the Prime Minister following allegations that she had sent threatening e-mails to Express journalists.
According to the deed poll cover sheet, Ramnarine’s name change was registered on May 16, 2011, months after the SSA affair was exposed in an Express exclusive. She had resigned in January 2011 from the position as head of the SSA but the controversy continued to be played out in the public domain until April 2011.
Rowley read the deed poll details into the Hansard records. “By this deed, the undersigned Shashi Rehka, of No 9 Building 11, Savannah Villas, lately called Resmi Usha Ramnarine ... do hereby for myself wholly renounce, relinquish and abandon the use of my forenames Resmi Usha and my surname Ramnarine and in lieu thereof assume the date hereof, the name Shashi as my forename and Rehka as my surname”.
Ramnarine in her resume to businesses had spelt her first name as “Reshmi” and the same spelling appears on her resignation letter.
Rowley said: “I want to ask the Prime Minister when she gets up and all the ministers (when they get up), what is it about Reshmi Ramnarine that they are so mindful about? And why is it that she had to change her name, and where is she now ensconced in the Government with a contract job? Who gave her that job and how she got it under the new name?”
Noting that Ramnarine, who the Prime Minister has claimed not to have known before she was catapulted “from telephone operator to a senior job”, has again ended up in the Government patronage system, Rowley said he wanted to ask the Prime Minister: “What is it that Reshmi Ramnarine have over you that thou art so mindful of her?”
The Prime Minister and three senior ministers—National Security Minister John Sandy, Suruj Rambachan and Prakash Ramadhar— were forced to apologise in the Parliament in January 2011 for misleading the country on the issue of Ramnarine’s qualifications and experience.
Ramnarine resigned after questions were raised that she did not have the qualifications and experience which Julie Browne claimed that she (Ramnarine) possessed. Rowley said he wanted a commitment from the Prime Minister than Browne would not be considered for the position of Director of the SSA, which has become vacant again.
Rowley also asked the Prime Minister if she planned to change the rules (as she did in order to allow Ministers to drive Government vehicles) to look into the Minister who used her credit card in breach of the regulations, and drew money on it locally. He named the Minister as Vernella Toppin-Alleyne.
He said Ministers can use the credit card overseas for cash withdrawal only for overseas travel but in one month the Minister used the credit card within the country contrary to the rules, at MovieTowne—$800 for dinner; to withdraw $3,500 in cash at Independence Square and for several other cash withdrawals. He said he wanted Government MPs to call for the resignation in the same way as they did with former PNM minister, Camille Robinson-Regis.
Rowley also said he could not understand how the Prime Minister who openly embraced resistance to UDeCOTT and Calder Hart could have dealt with Caribbean Airlines (CAL) in the way she did.
He said a report done in May 2011 on the $37 million award of the Contract for the Employee Benefits Brokerage and Consulting Services for CAL by then minister of works, Jack Warner, quoted Permanent Secretary Cheryl Blackman stating that the award “raises questions regarding the fairness of the process and the ability of CAL to be ethical and unbiased”.
Furthermore, he said the Minister recommended that an investigation be done by the Integrity Commission to determine whether CAL chairman George Nicholas “compromised his office by not fully disclosing his conflict of interest (in one of the bidding companies Reinsurance Brokers Ltd) as is required under the Integrity in Public Life Act”.
Rowley said the report noted that while CAL told the Ministry that the chairman declared his interest and took no part in the proceedings in respect of the award, the Minutes of the Board meeting showed that he declared his interest and then proceeded to take a significant part in the discussions as a result of which his company was awarded the contract.
Recalling his experience with Hart, Rowley said the Prime Minister removed the Minister and has given the chairman free rein. Saying it was Calder Hart two, Rowley said he never believed he would be in the Parliament and see the same thing happen twice.
“CAL is now expanding like mad,” he said, warning that it would become a serious drain on the Treasury.
Rowley also raised the fact that Japan and the United States had gone public “in important boardrooms” and “important magazines” expressing concerns about Government’s decision to approve two projects valued at US $5.3 billion to Saudi Arabia state company, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) and the message is “that Trinidad and Tobago is a place to watch because you don’t get benefit from your bidding there”.
“When you have this kind of development in the Japanese and American market it permeates the entire investing industry. What the Japanese are saying is that they were led to believe that they could only have bid on one of the projects,” he said.
Rowley said he wanted Government to state how it (Japan) offered a higher gas price but Saudi Arabia got the project with a gas price which is 36 per cent beyond the price NGC would pay for it.
“That is a subsidy from the people of Trinidad and Tobago to the people of Saudi Arabia. It is a classic case of the Biblical statement ‘unto him who has a lot more shall be added’,” he said. Rowley said the debate was an opportunity for the Government to respond on this issue, especially since the country was “desperately in need of foreign direct investment”.
The debate was expected to continue throughout last night. Up to press time there were contributions from MPs Roodal Moonilal, Amery Browne, Anil Roberts and Patricia McIntosh.
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