“Please come back home,” a weeping Lydia Hinds, mother of 16-year-old Nicole Lezama, said yesterday as she appealed for the safe return of the teen who has been missing since Saturday.
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PM taking time with Baker
Despite the public firestorm brewing over the matter involving her Tobago Development Minister Delmon Baker, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she will not act prematurely on it. She made the comment a brief interview yesterday, moments after a surprise birthday luncheon in her honour at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s. A young man has reported to the police that the minister allegedly behaved inappropriately towards him. Baker’s ministerial colleague, National Diversity and Social Integration Minister Rodger Samuel, has confirmed that the same man visited him with the complaint last week and that after praying with the alleged victim, he (Samuel) had sought to contact the PM on the matter.
However, Samuel, who said the man came to him in his capacity as a pastor, said after a pre-action protocol letter was served on the accuser, he decided not to leave the matter in the hands of the legal minds. Asked if she was aware of any government minister having engaged in inappropriate behaviour yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said: “Apart from what I read in the media, no minister has indicated any such matter.” She quickly added: “However, Minister Baker spoke with me some time last week. He has made a report to the police of possible attempts at extortion and I will say no more on that matter which is under police investigations.”
Persad-Bissessar confirmed she was concerned about the allegations involving Baker but insisted she “will not act prematurely” as the matter was under police investigation. “It would be imprudent, if not reckless of me, to make any pronouncements on that matter until the investigation is completed,” she insisted. Her comment seems to suggest she will be holding her hand on making a swift decision on public calls to fire Baker in the wake of the public furore over the allegations, as she has done with other members of her party who came under scrutiny for various indiscretions. Most recently, she fired former Minister of the People Glenn Ramadharsingh following claims of misconduct aboard a Caribbean Airlines flight from Tobago.
Flying Squad leak discussed
Persad-Bissessar also indicated yesterday the controversial release of confidential reports on the re-establishment of a new Flying Squad in 2012 was discussed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. She said both Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Gary Griffith would make statements on the issue. She admitted she had not yet received the reports when it was released in Parliament by Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi last week. “We were very surprised that we had not seen that report, nor had we been advised that such a report was finally lodged,” Persad-Bissessar said. The Prime Minister, who celebrates her 62nd birthday on Tuesday, said her Government was concerned about the actual leaking of the report and the revelations by Al-Rawi in releasing the documents.
Asked if she shared Ramlogan’s view that Al-Rawi had committed treason by disclosing contents of the report in Parliament, Persad-Bissessar said she would rely on her lawyers to so advise.
Yesterday’s 1.15 pm post-Cabinet news conference was cancelled because of the luncheon. The one-hour luncheon was the brainchild of deputy political leader of the United National Congress (UNC), Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who was the master of ceremony at the event. Speeches were delivered by Labour Minister Errol McLeod, Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray and Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. Among those who attended were head of the Public Service Reynold Cooper, while soca artiste Baron performed.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was seen leaving the event with sacked ministers Chandresh Sharma and Ramadharsingh. Sports Minister Anil Roberts said the PM’s birthday luncheon was at no cost to taxpayers. “Absolutely not one cent of taxpayers’ money. It was personal funds from a few individuals and organisers,” he insisted. Roberts said the event was one for ministers to express their love and appreciation for the Prime Minister and to also wish her a happy birthday.Persad-Bissessar, however, said she was not totally surprised by the surprise birthday luncheon.
Axe fell quickly for some
In the second week of May 2011, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar acted swiftly in sacking her first Minister of Planning, Restructuring and Gender Affairs, Mary King, because of the inappropriate award of a $100,000 contract to the firm, Ixanos, in which her family had an interest. Just over one year later in August 2012, she also acted swiftly do dismiss Minister in the National Security Ministry Colin Partap, who was being investigated for driving under the influence of alcohol. Last month, the PM also moved quickly to sack People and Social Development Minister Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh following allegations of disorderly behaviour on board a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight from Tobago.
Caribbean Airlines flight Ronelle Laidlow attendant reported to the police Ramadharsingh’s hand touched her breast when he reached for her ID badge while on a flight to Piarco. Police investigations into that matter are still in progress. And days later, the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of her Tourism Minister, Chandresh Sharma, after a former girlfriend reported to police that he physically assaulted her a few weeks earlier at Grand Bazaar, Valsayn. That matter is also still being investigated.