Monday, January 22, 2018

Personal vendetta against the Govt

AG on ‘Sunday Express’ exclusive:

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday described as “tantamount to treason and a subversion of the State” the leaking of two confidential reports to Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi and to “a particular reporter (Anika Gumbs) who “continues to lick up the Government in the Express”.

He was referring to the Sunday Express exclusive on reports of the Police Complaints Authority  and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service on  the New Flying Squad Investigations Unit. 

Speaking on CNC3’s Morning Brew, Ramlogan said:  “She (Gumbs) gets it and he (Al-Rawi) gets it, but the Government of the day doesn’t get it. So the headline is “Jack Cleared, Government not Spared”. So you get this kind of conspiratorial approach to things. The Government is left on the sidelines when the Government should be the first port of call. What is happening is there are people conspiring beneath us to bring down this Government. These matters have national security implications and therefore I call on the chairman of the PCA, Miss Gillian Lucky and the Commissioner of Police to launch an investigation into how such a sensitive and confidential document could be leaked to an Opposition Senator and a newspaper reporter before it is presented to the National Security Council of the country. “That is tantamount to treason and subversion of the State in a democracy,” he said.

“I demand that an investigation be launched into how the goodly senator came into possession of documents that from a national security perspective, could only have come into his possession because it was leaked, sensitive confidential information about an investigation into the Flying Squad being leaked and also interestingly it was leaked to a particular reporter that continues to lick up the Government in the Express,” he said.

The PCA and TTPS reports found that Garvin Heerah, who is currently head of the National Security Operations Centre and was a  former adviser to the Minister of National Security, was instrumental in the facilitation of the Squad. “Heerah wilfully and deliberately misconducted himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the police office or strategic adviser, without reasonable justification and the consequence was that a pseudo police unit was facilitated in its operations by the said office holder despite there being no approval or authorisation from the requisite authorities, the CoP and the Minister of National Security,” the PCA report stated.. 

“How on earth would have opposition senator get the report from the PCA and PS?” he asked, noting that the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Security and the Attorney General did not have the confidential document. “There are PNM agents everywhere, they are working and conspiring to bring this Government down and that is why there are leaks everywhere because they are conspiring to try and make this Government look bad,” he said. He said he was concerned about the fact that politics was seeping into the media in a way that has become so blatant and glaring and people were sweeping it under the carpet and not trying to strike a balance. He said while the Government had abolished criminal libel, that did not mean that it should remain “deaf and mute to political conspiracies that are being hatched within media institutions” and within institutions of the state”.

On the issue of the Sambury case which has been reported exclusively in the Express, the Attorney General said he found it “curious” that the Sunday Express would have a running series on what he considered to be “a simple and explainable matter”. “One ought to be very careful because if you say something they interpret it as an attack on the media. But the reality is that there are agents in the media who execute personal vendettas and they use the privileged position of a journalist to persecute and target persons. And it is clear that the reporter (Denyse Renne) in question in this matter is targeting someone as part of the execution of a personal vendetta. And I don’t know why the Express is facilitating it. But something is clearly wrong with that whole situation”

“I want to say for the benefit of the public, that if I find in any claim filed by any citizen who is victim of police brutality or brutality in the prison system, I, as Attorney General make no apologies whatsoever if that matter has to be settled. In fact, the procedure for settling any case is that the attorneys in the Solicitor General Department having reviewed the evidence and  taken instructions from the very prison officers or police officers, they will prepare advice for the Solicitor General recommending settlement. Before they do so they would obviously look at the medical reports and so on. The Solicitor General would then make her own investigation and if she is satisfied that there is a basis for settling, she would write a note to the Attorney General outlining why she recommended settling and it is only then that the Attorney General would approve or not approve. In most of these cases the idea that these matters are being settled because there is some wrongdoing— on the part of the State— the prison officers or the police officers who may have violated the person’s rights.

The Law Association and Chief Justice have commented on the issue. The story pointed out that Master of the High Court Patricia Sobion-Awai found that large segments of statements of a number of prison inmates who filed lawsuits against the State were virtually a “cut and paste” exercise with “startling similarities”.

The Attorney General said people had to be careful that they are not “drawn into a reporter’s vendetta”, whereby persons are cleverly asked to comment so that the reporter could “wave this big story and make a splash three weeks in a row”. He said every case mentioned in the story, the matter went to court, was tried and the court awarded damages. Ramlogan said he wanted the Express to properly vet stories so that it does not allow a story, “three-quarter of which is a  repeat from the previous two weeks to be kept alive because of the execution of someone’s personal vendetta”. He said it was absurd to suggest that there was some collusion in these matters.

Asked whether the story was coming from a leak in the AG’s office, Ramlogan said there were PNM agents in every ministry and every institution. 

While stating that the political atmosphere was highly charged, the Attorney General  said the elections were not constitutionally due until September. He said there would be no snap elections “a la Mr Manning”. “We intend to serve our full term,” he said.