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Businessman not yet told of PNM suspension
The People’s National Movement (PNM) has not yet officially told Harry Ragoonanan he has been suspended from the party and he has also not yet been contacted by the police about an investigation. However, the well-known businessman and long-time PNM supporter says he has sought legal advice based on media reports that he was suspended for alleged criminal misconduct.
The PNM’s general council on Saturday voted unanimously in favour of a motion brought by Sigler Jack, of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s Diego Martin West constituency, for Ragoonanan’s suspension pending investigation of an audio recording related to alleged manipulation of bids for the supply of Public Transportation Service Corporation (PTSC) buses.
Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Stuart Young, the party’s PRO, said the decision was in keeping with the position adopted by Rowley that no one involved in corrupt activities will find solace in the PNM.
Young said it was the party’s understanding that “a police investigation” had been “launched following certain allegations.” However, police officials yesterday could not confirm or deny whether an investigation was under way. Ragoonanan’s suspension is being described as unprecedented by PNM stalwart Ferdie Ferreira.
“As far as I know, given my knowledge and experience in the PNM, I don’t know of any member in the long history of the party suspended on the basis of allegations of criminal conduct,” he told the T&T Guardian.
Ferreira recalled that when PNM chairman Franklin Khan and former energy minister Eric Williams were charged and before the courts, neither was suspended from the party, nor were Johnny O’Halloran and Francis Prevatt, who also faced allegations of criminal conduct.
Ferreira and Karl Hudson-Phillips were suspended from the party in April 1980 after the general council found that certain actions they had taken were “inimical to the interest of the party.” Both men were expelled from the party after Hudson-Phillips announced the formation of the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR).
In Ragoonanan’s case, a transcript was read of what was purported to be a conversation he had. However, he was not given an opportunity to say anything, Ferreira said.
“The matter should have been referred to the investigations committee, which would do an investigation and then present a report to the general council and on the basis of that you proceed to determine whether to suspend or not,” he said
Political commentator Ralph Maraj, a former member of the PNM, added: “It is possible that Mr. Ragoonanan is guilty of some kind of misdemeanour but that is not yet known. Therefore, I think natural justice requires that he at least be given a hearing before suspension. It is possible that he is not guilty as well, but he should have at least been given a hearing before taking the extreme action of suspending him and then the very public way it was done suggests the possibility that they intended to humiliate him.”
Maraj said this gave credence to Ragoonanan’s allegation of a revenge attack for his exposure of “possible shenanigans in the hiring of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2 from Bridgemans Services Group.”