A group of teachers led by T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai protested outside the Education Ministry on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday over...
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Smear campaign by state board members
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj has called in the police to investigate allegations of sexual and financial impropriety made against him by people whom he claimed are on a state board under his ministry. Maharaj and People’s National Movement senator Avinash Singh were addressing a farmer’s meeting at the Invaders Recreation Ground, Felicity, on Saturday. Maharaj said his accusers are getting desperate since they have come under investigation.
“I was contacted this week by people I never knew before in my life (names called) and they sent an affidavit to me saying essentially they were called into a meeting with (named called) and I not libelling anybody here, that is what they say in the thing,” he said. “First item on the agenda I sexually assaulted 300 women; assuming that I take time for Saturday and Sunday that is a woman a day, this is the level of desperation. The second issue, I thief 100,000 citrus plants. Where I have these citrus plants?”
He said other allegations include a plot by Maharaj and his wife to steal $10 million from the Agricultural Development Bank and have it written off, and a plot to sell land to a man for $3 million. He said another allegation includes where he asked a restaurant owner to write off a loan. “Think about what kind of mind coming up with that,” he said.
Maharaj said as a government minister he expects criticism but he drew the line when it comes to conspiring against a cabinet minister. Maharaj said he has written to the Minister of National Security and the Commissioner of Police to conduct a full investigation. Maharaj said he plans to take the necessary legal action.
Maharaj said the state board, which he named, was being mismanaged and was abusing state funds. He said officials on the board were giving themselves allowances for make-up and clothing. He said some phone bills were high as $7,000 a month.
An audit of the state board found examples of unwarranted spending of taxpayers’ dollars, Maharaj said. He said the board has used its position to curry favour people to get a $50,000 loan from the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB). He said that 95 per cent of the loans are delinquent and it was stopped to prevent a haemorrhage of funds from the ADB.
Singh, who attended in his capacity as the VP of the Felicity Farmers Association, said based on media reports he was dissatisfied with the performance of that particular state board “that is a concept shared by many farmers throughout this country.”