A qualified apology by Minister of State in the Ministry of the People, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, over comments she made about People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Dr Keith Rowley has failed to q
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Gopee-Scoon: Let Jack clear air on FBI claims
Opposition MP Paula Gopee-Scoon said National Security Minister Jack Warner has dared the media to “call names” in an alleged matter involving the son of a Cabinet minister. Gopee-Scoon said so during her contribution to yesterday’s resumed debate on the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2013. The legislation seeks to give soldiers police powers of arrest during joint patrols by police and soldiers in the fight against crime.
An exclusive report in last week’s Sunday Guardian said the son of a Cabinet minister was being questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in a sealed indictment. Gopee-Scoon, who quoted from the report, said Warner had expressed his concerns about transnational crime “and he should be assuring the population that no Cabinet minister, at all, is implicated in this matter.”
Gopee-Scoon said: “Neither he (Warner) nor the Prime Minister has referred the matter to the Police Commissioner, as they have chosen to do with the Flying Squad.” Gopee-Scoon, a former foreign affairs minister, said “that was the kind of action we would have expected.” Warner was seated in the chamber while the former minister of foreign affairs said Warner actually dared the media to call names in the matter.
She told legislators, including the Attorney General, who was also in the chamber: “If you are going to be serious about fighting crime, you have to come forward to the nation with a proper statement on this (matter).” She said Persad-Bissessar’s response about not knowing anything about the matter was very disheartening.
“So what you have is the head of the country’s National Security Council totally oblivious and unconscious of this very serious state of affairs,” Gopee-Scoon said. She said Persad-Bissessar should put the matter to rest as it affects the “credibility and legitimacy of the People’s Partnership Government.
Earlier, Persad-Bissessar in her contribution said the Government agreed to have the Chief of Defence Staff establish a code of conduct for soldiers working with police under the legislation. She said that was one of the proposals put to the Government by the Law Association and the Criminal Bar Association at a meeting on Thursday.
She said also when the legislation is approved and implemented, soldiers will not be authorised to “interrogate, charge, prosecute and they will not be able to carry out any investigations into allegations made against a person detained. “They will not be able to do criminal investigations,” the PM said.
She said the Government got legal opinion from former president of the Law Association Dana Seetahal, SC, and Fenton Ramsahoye, SC, who have said the legislation did not subvert the Constitution and as a consequence did not require a special majority vote for passage.
She also revealed that the Government had received a report by Prof Selwyn Ryan on youth and delinquency. She said the report made several recommendations, including the need for sports programmes to be a deterrent to criminal activity. The PM said the Government yesterday signed an agreement for a $700 million loan from the Export Import Bank of T&T to construct six sporting facilities across the country.