COMMISSIONER of Police Dwayne Gibbs has refuted a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister that he (Gibbs), in his capacity as Commissioner, has sole jurisdiction over the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA).
In a telephone interview on Monday night shortly after the Office of the Prime Minister issued the statement, Gibbs maintained his ground that the SIA remains a State agency and is not under his control.
Within the past week there have been several inconsistencies and contradictions between the Government and the Police Service surrounding the secret spy unit.
In response to a Sunday Express story in which a senior government official stated that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in her capacity as chairman of the National Security Council, had the SIA files at some point, the Office of the Prime Minister issued this statement on Monday evening:
"The Office of the Prime Minister wishes to state that it is not, nor has it ever been, in possession of any intercepted communication by the SIA and all allegations otherwise are false, misleading and erroneous.
"Regarding the SIA and the recent investigations into this unit, the Office of the Prime Minister wishes to point out that the Commissioner of Police had and continues to have sole and exclusive jurisdiction and control over the SIA and all matters concerning investigations into its recent operations fall exclusively under the ambit and purview of the Commissioner of Police."
The Sunday Express story also stated that the SIA information was subsequently passed over to Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, quoting the same unidentified senior Government source.
The Prime Minister's statement contradicts statements made by Gibbs in the same Sunday Express story and also what he had said when he (Gibbs) was questioned by reporters outside the West End Police Station on November 30. Gibbs had stated then that the police probe into SIA was over and he had no control over the agency which was governed by the State.
When questioned by reporters then on whether there were plans to place the SIA under the control of the Police Service, Gibbs said, "I can't answer that question. The SIA is a Government agency, which is not under the Police Service, and that question would be best answered by the Government, but as far as I am aware, there are no such plans at this time to bring it under the Police Service."
Questioned by the Sunday Express about the possibility of the secret files falling into the hands of politicians, Gibbs again stated that the SIA did not fall under the purview of the Police Service and was a "Government agency".
On Monday night, Gibbs said he maintained his previous statements that he has no control over the agency.
The illegal wire-tapping operations of the SIA were revealed on November 12 by Persad-Bissessar in a statement to the Parliament when she said the SIA "reported directly to the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister as head of the country's National Security Council".
Persad-Bissessar listed several public figures who were victims of the SIA's illegal wire-tapping and signalled her intention to inform other private citizens who were spied on.
She had said then, "There was evidence to suggest that a massive sanitisation operation took place after the general elections. Empty folders carrying the names of the individuals who were the subject of interception were found. Other records of taped conversations and transcription of conversations have been removed and/or destroyed."
Both National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy and Minister in the National Security Ministry Subhas Panday have denied any knowledge about the whereabouts of SIA-collected material.
On Monday, Justice Minister Herbert Volney, speaking exclusively to the Express, stated that the secret files retrieved by the SIA had been destroyed by two unidentified Israeli men.
On October 23, Gibbs was said to have ordered a raid of the offices of the St Vincent Street, Port of Spain base of the SIA after Persad-Bissessar requested he look into the agency's operations.
This prompted the Government to bring legislation—The Interception of Communications Bill—to deal with the issue of interception. The bill was passed with unanimous support in the Lower House as well as the Senate.