Friday, January 19, 2018

PM ‘can’t touch Jack’

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s attempts to “duck and hide” on the issue of a reported FBI corruption probe into Minister of National Security Jack Warner shows to this country and the international community “that she cannot touch (him)”, said Movement for Social for Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah.

He noted that Warner himself had said he was not going anywhere and the matter shall pass like the Flying Squad issue.

Abdulah said, however, the MSJ will not allow this issue, the Flying Squad or Section 34 “to pass”.

The MSJ called on Warner to be removed as National Security Minister, as he cannot function in the position and interface with his US counterparts with the allegation of the probe.

On the Prime Minister seeking information about the probe, he said he does not believe a foreign government is obligated to divulge matters about which law enforcement officers are pursuing.

He was speaking yesterday during an MSJ media conference at the offices of the Communications Workers’ Union at Henry Street, Port of Spain.

He noted the Prime Minister was an integral part of the bad governance and her not censuring ministers who were out of line was a sin of omission. He also said she will ultimately pay the political price for keeping in her Cabinet people like Warner and Sport Minister Anil Roberts, who have abused their power to attack persons.

Abdulah said there was a danger to democracy when the Cabinet and Prime Minister were not “reining in” ministers using their office to attack citizens who have criticised them.

He spoke on three “examples of abuse of political office” by the Government:

• Roberts using a post-Cabinet news conference two weeks ago to “attack” Guardian investigative reporter Anika Gumbs-Sandiford;

• “Abuse of parliamentary privilege” by Warner and his statements about attorney Vernon De Lima and chief executive officer of the Tobago Regional Health Authority George Bell, with words that bordered on accusations of treason. The statements had not been retracted in spite of public denials by all persons named.

• MSJ member and farming activist Shiraz Khan who had a court judgment against him for allegedly defaulting on a loan from the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB).

“And all of these set a certain pattern of behaviour by a Government which suggests that they are prepared to attack those who are criticising them,” he said.

He said if the Prime Minister were serious about not wanting a war with the press, as she had said, she would have publicly apologised to the media for Roberts’s “totally unacceptable comments” and stress it was not the position of the Government. He also said her reference about “rogue elements” in the media seemed to be coincident with Roberts’s claims.

He said her statements “ring absolutely hollow”, as does a statement by the Congress of the People (COP) disagreeing with the approach of attacking the media, because if it was serious it would have disciplined Roberts as a COP member.

Abdulah noted criticism and debate were an integral part of the democratic process, but as a society we must draw the line when an office is abused “to get at someone”.

On Khan’s case, he said contrary to the ADB’s claim, he had been making repayments.

Abdulah described it as a “clear case of political victimisation” as there were no other media reports of similar cases.

Khan also claimed an ADB official told him he could get a lower interest rate on the loan if he removed signs critical of building a judicial complex in Carlsen Field that were “attacking his (the official’s) Government”.