Bacchanal over Roodal Moonilal!
That’s what erupted inside - and outside - of the Parliament yesterday when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and United National Congress MP Roodal Moonilal sounded off separately concerning allegations Moonilal made on Tuesday, querying alleged links between Rowley, a Miami bank account and Vidya Deokiesingh.
“There is absolutely no truth to what the Member for Oropouche East has stated and/or imputed,” Rowley declared in a personal explanation to Parliament during the 2019 Budget debate.
Rowley’s denial was part of yesterday’s “fireworks” between Government and Opposition. This was sparked by Moonilal’s contribution in Tuesday’s Budget debate, where he made the bank account allegations and spelt out Rowley’s name.
Government, saying the allegations are untrue, yesterday moved immediately to have Parliament’s Privileges Committee investigate Moonilal’s allegations as a “serious matter of high contempt.”
Moonilal, however, has stood “strongly” by his allegations.
The scenario unfolded prior to Parliament when Rowley and his attorney Michael Quamina held a briefing within Parliament’s offices at 11 am denying Moonilal’s allegations on Tuesday.
When Moonilal arrived at Parliament two hours later, he also held a briefing - on the pavement. Moonilal said he stood by his statements, adding he expected Rowley’s denial.
On the allegations Moonilal added, “I take the same position Dr Rowley did on the purported Emailgate issue - he said it came to his attention, he didn’t know if it was true or not, but he’d raised it in the public interest and called for an investigation.
“We’re not detectives or police. When we get information we raise it depending on the gravity - for this we’re calling for a full investigation by the relevant authorities.”
He said he couldn’t command overseas agencies like the FBI to verify the alleged information,” but we’ve raised it in the public domain. They’re very serious matters, I believe they deserve further investigation.”
Moonilal said he’ll also co-operate with any probe on it. But noting Rowley’s comments at his earlier briefing, Moonilal said the PM couldn’t “instruct” the Police Commissioner to investigate, speaking from a press conference, but would have to report the matter to a police station or write and request a probe.
“I hope Captain Gary Griffith’s aware of that. Nor can the Attorney General probe this matter involving his boss, who pays for his meals. And the Prime Minister cannot ask the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) - they have no jurisdiction in Miami.”
He said he resisted calling Rowley’s name on Tuesday since the Budget debate wasn’t a substantive motion on Rowley. But Moonilal was particularly irked by the presence of Rowley’s attorney at the PM’s briefing.
“This was a stranger to the Parliament, threatening me - a sitting MP - with legal action. Parliament was today used to oppress freedom of speech. He’s rude, fast and out of place to come to Parliament and seek to intimidate me - I reprimand Dr Rowley for that. I’ve raised it with the Clerk of the House. We may have to take a Privileges Motion against Dr Rowley or summon the person back to Parliament,” he said.
“I won’t be intimidated, harassed or muzzled from doing my duty. These matters (allegations) speak to international affairs. In coming days I’ll discuss with my party, leader and lawyers and decide on the next step - the Integrity Commission is among several options in T&T and outside.”
Half hour after Moonilal’s comment, when Parliament began, Prime Minister Rowley repeated rebuttals to what he said were “spurious and wholly untrue allegations” by Moonilal.
He recalled that on December 15, 2017, Moonilal had alleged that a “very senior government minister” was involved in the matter involving AV Drilling and Petrotrin, but Moonilal was forced to withdraw it.
Rowley said Moonilal had claimed he’d visited Florida to conduct research and he was asked to “take ownership” of his allegation that he (Rowley) was involved “in some nefarious bank transaction involving the transfer of a sum of money to me in a bank account in Miami” and that the evidence was in an email that Moonilal had.
Then, Rowley said Moonilal “withdrew” without producing a copy of the email, but “the damage and harm he intended to cause in a most malicious manner was already done.”
Rowley said on Tuesday, Moonilal once again engaged in the same behaviour under cover of parliamentary privilege.
Before Moonilal spoke, Rowley said Moonilal’s colleague, Devant Maharaj, circulated social media messages for people to listen to Moonilal who’d promised “fireworks.” Rowley noted, “... Clear evidence of collusion and malice.”
Rowley said Moonilal then made his allegations and the Attorney General intervened asking Moonilal to take ownership of his allegations.
Rowley added, “There was gamesmanship displayed and reluctance on the part of Dr Moonilal to bolt his allegations against me to his chest. Eventually, under much pressure, he said,“… that the two names I have here, additional instructions, Attention, V-I-D-Y-A D-E-O-K-I-E-S-I-N-G-H and the second name, K-E-I-T-H R-O-W-L-E-Y.”
Rowley added, “The member verbally identified me but intentionally failed to provide a copy of any single document to support his allegations against me. However, minutes after he spoke, pieces of the defamatory documents were broadcast worldwide by individuals and agents, including other members of the House.
“What the member did was carefully, intentionally and maliciously calculated to defame me, damage me (and my reputation). He imputed impropriety to me and provided only bogus documents. This is unacceptable and cannot be left unchallenged. I state here, there is absolutely NO truth to what the member for Oropouche East has stated and/or imputed.
“I have no bank account in Miami, USA; I was not party to any banking transaction with Mr Deokiesingh, Formula One Trading or any person or persons with respect to any bank in Florida, the United States, or any bank in the world for that matter.”
Rowley challenged Moonilal to provide the bank document to Parliament and the media outside of Parliament.
“I’ve observed that as he’s taken ownership of his performance within these walls he’s since confirmed his libel outside. The treatment of this development is for another day in another place,” the PM said.
He said he’s instructed his attorneys to write to the Miami bank to obtain from them, confirmation that he’s never done any banking with them “....whatsoever - because this is the truth!”
Rowley added, “The email that the member referred to and that I’ve seen being circulated by UNC members, does not involve me, the email address is not mine. It is email@example.com. That is not my email.”
Rowley said Government MPs will pursue the “appropriate action” against Moonilal, and he’ll seek legal advice on what action “I can pursue outside of Parliament against those who have republished these fabrications.”
ROWLEY LISTS WHAT MOONILAL ALLEGED
• That Moonilal had been travelling to Miami (similar to what he said in December 2017) on a few occasions because he “had wind of something.”
• He claimed he had information, “that pointed [him] to a bank in Florida C&C International Regents Bank Account 0229459435 ABA062005690 swift code UPNBUS44MIA, 8200 North West 36 St Doral Florida, 33166.”
• He had a bank document, that showed “a beneficiary account number IBAN foreign with a number 1145145 No purpose of funds, so it is a transfer document beneficiary recipients, no purpose of funds, but additional instructions for attention.”
• Moonilal alleged, “There are two names here. One is Vidya Deokiesingh and a bank in Florida. … The second name I cannot call in Parliament. I cannot. The second name I cannot call. But you see, Madame Speaker, I cannot call the second name but I asked a week or two ago. I asked the Member for Diego Martin West whether he had any interest in AV Drilling… Madame Speaker, Vidya Deokiesingh and another name which I cannot call is here on a piece of paper before me with a beneficiary account Formula One Trading. Madame Speaker, all I am asking to Vidya Deokiesingh and another unnamed person is, what business did you have with Vidya Deokiesingh?”
• After Government pressed him to take ownership of the matter, Moonilal alleged,”… that the two names I have here, additional instructions, Attention, V-I-D-Y-A D-E-O-K-I-E-S-I-N-G-H and the second name, K-E-I-T-H R-O-W-L-E-Y. I have read it Madame Speaker.”
Rowley, in his statement added, “The member has a modus operandi that whenever he comes to parliament and hides behind parliamentary privilege to malign me or any other member, he does not provide any document to you or the House, but almost instantaneously, the allegation and any document that he purportedly has in his possession appears on Facebook and other social media it is then circulated on social media by primed persons associated with the UNC Opposition and on Facebook pages controlled by the UNC Opposition. Additionally, selected sound-bite video recordings of his contribution where he abuses parliamentary privilege is also circulated on social media. I submit. this is calculated to damage me irreparably.”