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E-Mailgate Returned To Sender

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The revelation last week that the Internet giant Google had entered a consent order in a California court whereby it provided sworn confirmation that the e-mails that were presented in the House of Representatives on May 20, 2013 by Dr Keith Rowley were faked was a major political bombshell. This has now returned the entire e-mailgate scandal to the sender. Whoever delivered a sheaf of papers to the Leader of the Opposition with typed statements that purported to be e-mails did him a great disservice.

Apart from the questions that will be asked about his judgment in bringing the sheaf of papers to Parliament to be read into the Hansard as part of a motion of no confidence, there is also the question of the handling of this sheaf of papers by other high offices of the State as the matter wended its way to the Parliament in the form of a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister.

There is a criminal charge for wasting police time, but that will not arise in this instance as the Leader of the Opposition did not make a police report but dealt with other officials of the State. The only request for a police investigation was made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar after the allegations were made against her and some members of her Government by Dr Rowley in the Parliament.

Now that the sheaf of papers has been confirmed to be faked, it will be useful to map out the route that the fakes took to get to Parliament. According to Dr Rowley, he went to see President George Maxwell Richards in December 2012 to bring the sheaf of papers to his attention. President Richards held on to the sheaf until March 4, 2013, when he sent it to the Integrity Commission. Why he waited so long to transmit it is not known.

Ten days after sending the sheaf, all members of the Integrity Commission besides the chairman demitted office. President Richards decided that he would leave the appointment of new integrity commissioners for the attention of his successor, Anthony Carmona. It is still not known whether chairman Ken Gordon ever put the sheaf before the Integrity Commission prior to the commissioners demitting office.

A new commission was not sworn into office until July 1, 2013. In the intervening period, Dr Rowley held a secret meeting with chairman Gordon at the latter’s home on May 15, 2013, ahead of his motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister in the Parliament on May 20 thereafter.

The first and immediate fault line that appeared in the presentation made by the Leader of the Opposition in his motion of no confidence was a reference to someone called “Thomas at the embassy”. He said that it was Thomas Smitham, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Port-of-Spain.

On the same day, it was confirmed that Thomas Smitham was not posted to Trinidad until November 2012 and was, therefore, never in the country during September 2012 which was the period that the sheaf referenced in relation to him.

In fact, the exact quotation from the Hansard is as follows:
“This is, whoever that person is, the Anan, panicking that a Guardian reporter might have a source at the embassy and the Thomas referred to here is Thomas Smitham who is the Chargé d‘Affaires at the embassy in the absence of a US ambassador.” (Hansard, House of Representatives, May 20, 2013, p 21.)

It comes as no surprise that the entire sheaf has now been confirmed as faked and the reason for no surprise goes back to that one fault line in the story that related to the US Embassy in Port-of-Spain. With the so-called “e-mailgate” scandal now turning on its head, the question arises as to whether somebody who Dr Rowley trusted set him up. Who would want to do such a thing to their leader?

The PNM has been able to extract considerable political mileage out of the “e-mailgate” affair to the extent that, in cricketing terms, they were bowling pace on the issue and now they have had to change tactics and they are bowling spin in the aftermath of the confirmation of the fakes.

The deeper issue that must be examined is why did President Richards sit on the sheaf of papers for over two months before sending it to the Integrity Commission on the eve of the demission of office of all members except the chairman?

Furthermore, when the commission began its investigation, it was revealed that chairman Gordon would not participate in the process. That was a direct fallout from his secret meeting with Dr Rowley five days before the motion of no confidence was debated in the House of Representatives.

After an expansive tour through the hallowed offices of President’s House, the Integrity Commission and the Parliament, the entire sheaf of papers ends up being returned to the sender with a postmark saying “return to sender” by snail mail, because it was never sent by e-mail in the first place.


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