National Security Minister Gary Griffith is threatening to quit in the face of scathing press release issued by Communication Minister Vasant Bharath yesterday accused him of making false claims and compromising the integrity of Cabinet.Bharath was referring to reports that Griffith claimed he was pressured by his Cabinet colleagues not support a criminal complaint by Police Complaints Authority Director David West.
West claimed on Thursday that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan asked him (West) to withdraw his witness statement in a defamation case between Ramlogan and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in exchange for the PCA post.
Griffith is now threatening to expose private details of a meeting he and his wife, Congress of the People chairman, Nicole Dyer-Griffith were "summoned to" with Bharath and United National Congress's campaign and advertising consultant Ernie Ross on Thursday in Woodbrook.In a subsequent interview though, Bharath denied calling Dyer-Griffith to any meeting and he also denied being present at any meeting with Griffith, Dyer-Griffith and Ross.
In a telephone interview yesterday, a livid Griffith, who was at the National Panorama semifinals, at the Queen's Park Savannah, in Port-of-Spain, said that he was surprised that Bharath would be the first to say there was no Cabinet pressure on him to not support West.Griffith also criticised Bharath, claiming that the move to discredit him was a "red herring" designed to push him out of office.
"I do not need to sell my soul for a political seat and I am not begging anyone to stay, I could walk out of the Government tomorrow with my head high," Griffith said.Griffith said Bharath never contacted him before issuing that statement and was shocked that Bharath would make such damning statements without verifying whether he did in fact say that Cabinet was putting pressure on him not to support West.
"It is surprising and ironic that the Minister of Communication is the first to jump out and make those statements. It is ironic that he of all people would be saying that but you know what they say about people who protest too much," Griffith said.
He said it was "interesting" that Bharath would make such statements "as if he forgot" what played off between the four of us at a meeting at Ross' office on Thursday, after news broke that Griffith was in fact maintaining that he would remain a witness against Ramlogan.
"The court of public opinion could judge me and I could keep my head high but I want Bharath to answer to the country what he was doing up in Ernie Ross office on Thursday and why they summoned me and Mrs Griffith to a meeting and what was said there," Griffith said."The Minister of Communication lacks the most basic common sense and manners if he cannot contact me before making these statements," he said.
"Let them continue, I have no intention to lie to protect anyone and I am not going to be pressured to lie," Griffith said.Despite Griffith's threats, it was Bharath who drew first blood yesterday when he issued a media statement saying that Griffith's word and actions had "compromised the integrity of Cabinet".
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said on Saturday that the entire Cabinet could be the subject of a police investigation if it proven that pressure had been applied to Griffith to withdraw his statement in support of West.The media release carried the headline "Bharath: Griffith's claims 'false and without basis' and went on to say that Griffith's claim that he was pressured by Cabinet was "COMPLETELY false and without any basis whatsoever!"
"Any suggestion that such a request was made of the National Security Minister at the meeting of Cabinet last Thursday is completely and utterly false. The Cabinet never, at any time, attempted to do as Mr Griffith has claimed," the release noted.
"In dismissing the claims, Minister Bharath added: "More than Mr Griffith's claims being completely untrue is the fact that he has, by his actions, compromised the integrity of Cabinet, and has done so without any clear or rational reason," Bharath's release said.
"The irony of these claims are also very stark, when one considers that it is this Government that has done the most to not only maintain, but improve the processes and mechanisms that promote accountability and transparency in Government," Bharath said.
AG to resign...Lalla tipped for job
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan is set to resign today and attorney Larry Lalla is expected to be sworn in.The Cabinet change will take place before Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar makes her much anticipated announcement at 4 pm.
According to the Constitution, Cabinet must be made up of the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, so once Ramlogan steps down, Lalla would have to be signed in immediately in order to uphold the Constitutional description of what constitutes a government.
The T&T Guardian understands that Ramlogan has not met with Persad-Bissessar but instead was allowed to send a statement to her following reports that Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Director David West made a complaint to police, accusing Ramlogan of attempting to "pervert the course of justice" by asking him to withdraw his witness statement in a civil matter filed by Ramlogan against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
The T&T Guardian was informed that Ramlogan met with three lawyers on Thursday; his private lawyer Pamela Elder SC, Wayne Sturge and Gerald Ramdeen.While both Sturge and Ramdeen were spotted entering Ramlogan's office on Thursday, Elder refused to comment on "anything concerning the AG", when contacted yesterday.Key members of the Cabinet met at Persad-Bissessar's home in Phillpine, South Trinidad up until 4 am Sunday morning, sources said, but Ramlogan was a no show.
The T&T Guardian understands that he spent the past three days in his gated-community Palmiste home with his family, discussing his next step.The T&T Guardian was told that while Ramlogan appeared crest-fallen, he stands by his denial that he ever sought to bargain the PCA job as an inducement for West to withdraw his witness statement in the defamation case with Rowley.
"He has said that by the grace of God, he would prove this was a move driven by hate and vengeance," the insider said.In a statement last Thursday, hours after West made his report, Ramlogan claimed the allegation was "part of a wider political conspiracy designed to damage the government as we draw closer to elections."
National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who has been identified as a witness in West's complaint, when he claimed that Ramlogan duped him into contacting West to follow up on whether the witness had withdrawn the witness statement as discussed.Griffith had claimed that he did not know the contents of the document he was asked to follow up on with West.
Griffith said yesterday that has been cleared by investigators and was not a suspect in anyway while the provisions of PCA Act 2006 protects West.Lalla, the T&T Guardian learned has not yet been informed of the confirmation of the appointment but has signalled to close friends that once approached, he would accept."He is not saying anything until the Prime Minister speaks because he does not want to jump the gun," a close friend said.