Monday, February 19, 2018

Karen: I warned Anil

‘...Criminal elements in 2010 election campaign’

Former People’s National Movement (PNM) MP for D’Abadie/O’Meara, Karen Nunez-Tesheira, had concerns about the role of persons with an alleged criminal background in the 2010 general election campaign in the constituency.

The D’Abadie/O’Meara seat was won by Congress of the People candidate, Anil Roberts, now the Minister of Sport in the People’s Partnership Government.

Nunez-Tesheira was responding to statements made by Devough Cummings, a supervisor of the LifeSport programme in Carapo. Cummings strongly defended the programme and its co-ordinator, Rajaee Ali. Cummings acknowledged during the interview that he had been a supporter of the PNM and Nunez-Tesheira, whom he criticised.

However, speaking to the Express last week, Nunez-Tesheira said there were many ironies in what Cummings had stated. She said Cummings, who was known by the nickname “Boyo”, was one of her main supporters and a member of her campaign team in 2010.

“What struck me was the irony of what Mr Cummings had to say,” she said.

Noting that the LifeSport programme is being investigated by the Government, with respect to the criminal element which is allegedly part of the programme, Nunez-Tesheira said: “Mr Cummings was one of two persons who, just about a week before the 2010 general election, came to me during a walkabout in the constituency. He was literally scared when he came to me. And he said the night before when they (himself and another individual whose name she requested not be printed) were doing their canvassing in the constituency for the PNM, a man who was known to them from Malabar, came out of a vehicle, blocked them and was brandishing a gun. They knew him, he knew he had been in prison and had been recently released and they knew that this was not someone to be trifled with. And he threatened them.

“They told me that he threatened them with regards to their supporting of my campaign and intimidated them to such an extent that they jumped into a ditch to escape him.

“They called my office manager (from the ditch) and they were advised to go to the police,” Nunez-Tesheira recalled.

She said they called the police, who came and took them to Malabar Police Station.

She said, therefore, it was very ironic that “Boyo”, who came to her with respect to criminal action during the 2010 campaign, should be saying the things that he is now saying in the media. Nunez-Tesheira said she was naïve enough at that time to go to Roberts’s campaign office to discuss what was happening in the constituency. She said she had taught Roberts’s brother, Shastri, at law school, also knew his wife, Lara, and had attended their wedding.

“And I felt that this was not the way to conduct a campaign. So I went to the office to say ‘if you win, you win. But there was no need to go down that road, that there was no need to have people bringing out guns and having the kind of action that I was seeing entering the campaign.”

She said she was totally taken aback by the response she received. She said the issue found its way into the newspapers, with “erroneous reports”, claiming that she went into Roberts’s campaign office in a violent manner and threw down chairs, “which was a total untruth”.

Nunez-Tesheira said she merely went to speak to Roberts and his people about the direction the campaign was taking and to caution against this kind of activity.

She said a number of persons, who were alleged to have been involved in criminal activity in the constituency, approached her in the campaign, but she “would have none of it”. “I stayed away from that because I would have been under their control (if I had allowed myself to be exposed to that),” she stated. Nunez-Tesheira said during her tenure as MP she focused on Carapo, putting up retaining walls, bridges, speed bumps, lighting, parks, drainage ducts, paved streets, etc.

Saying that the ordinary people in Carapo were very kind to her, Nunez-Tesheira stated: “I did in Carapo what I thought an MP should do. What I did not do, in Carapo as well as in other parts of my constituency, was that I absolutely refused to have anything to do with the alleged criminal elements in that constituency, because once you do that, you compromise yourself and you are beholden to them and they can control you, they can blackmail, threaten and intimidate you and I was not prepared to do that.

“So Mr Cummings, or ‘Boyo’ as I knew him, if that (cooperating with criminal elements) is his definition of a good MP, then I was not a good MP,” she added.