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Cox claims phones of Opposition members being tapped

By Ria Taitt

Laventille East MP Donna Cox said yesterday she was reliably informed that her phone, those of her People's National Movement (PNM) colleagues and the phones of some members of the People's Partnership were being tapped.

"What was the purpose of the Interception Communications Bill. To my recollection, there is a procedure to follow before tapping someone's phone," she said.

Speaking in the House of Representatives in the Defence Amendment Bill, Cox recalled the statements made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar when she came with the Interception Communications Bill (that this Government would not engage in illegal tapping of phones).

"Phones are (currently) being tapped," she said.

Cox said the soldiers in SAUTT (Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago) were not involved in police duties. She said they reported to Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson who, she described, was the new star on television.

She said many of the soldiers in SAUTT were trainers in the use of firearms, many were IT (information technology) persons and some were experts at gathering information. But they were always supervised by an experienced police officer, Cox stressed.

She was responding to statements from Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who said soldiers were precepted under SAUTT under the PNM, and they were involved in police work without the cover of the law. Cox said that was not true.

"Another one of his deliberate inaccuracies."

She said Ramlogan's statements that there were 400 soldiers in SAUTT was also untrue.

"SAUTT was also made up of members of the Fire Service and the Prisons Service. Where did they (the Government) get that number from; they just pulled it out of a hat?

"No Defence Force persons had the authority, the privilege or incentives of the Police Service. Please, don't try to fool the people of Trinidad and Tobago," she said.

"If SAUTT was illegal, why didn't they bring legislation to make it legal, instead of dismantling it and coming up with an illegal Flying Squad?"

She said many of the officers who were not dismissed from SAUTT were doing nothing at the Intelligence and Intercept Unit at Piarco and the Surveillance Unit at Macoya.

She said it was just spite to have men trained with taxpayers' dollars being paid to do nothing. She said it was reported that one "Mr Denny and Mr Alfonso" were now based at the Piarco unit, hand-picked for the job.

Cox said this Government was employing loyalists, "partisan political operatives", unlike the PNM, which trained persons on the basis of competence and training.

She said the Defence Amendment Bill was unworkable, impractical and unconstitutional.

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