Baffled by the Prime Minister’s assertion that Opposition members were the “senior government officials” named in the 2022 US Trafficking in People report involved in the illicit trade, Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal is calling on Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher to come forward with information on any investigation into the claims.
But even as he made the call, his former colleague, Devant Maharaj, doubled down on his claim that the UNC not only knew of the allegation but had launched an international probe into it, which Moonilal was, in fact, part of.
Moonilal’s call came during an Opposition media conference yesterday, where he said he was confident no such inquest existed.
“Today, I call on Erla Harewood-Christopher to indicate to the country whether there is any ongoing investigation that involves Members of Parliament—whether in Government or Opposition, anyone—dealing in human trafficking. Is there any ongoing investigation?”
Guardian Media was unable to get a comment from the Commissioner on Dr Moonilal’s call.
Responding to a question in Parliament on Friday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the senior government officials alleged to be involved in the illicit trade in 2020 were members of the UNC.
However, Moonilal joined leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in dismissing this claim yesterday.
“The American government normally writes in English. They speak English, they write English. This is not a case where a report is translated from French to English, Spanish to English, Dutch, German to English, Hindi to English. This is a case where the report is in English,” he said.
“It says senior government officials alleged in 2020. Hear what, Rowley now comes to say it is not senior government officials, it’s really senior government officials of the UNC in 2011-12, somewhere around there, but it’s only in 2020 it’s alleged. In the seven years (sic) between (20)12 and (20)20, nobody alleged. Is only now.”
Even if Dr Rowley’s allegations were true, Moonilal asked why the matter was not sent to the police.
However, former UNC-led People’s Partnership minister Maharaj gave credence to the Prime Minister’s assertion on Saturday, saying he assisted in an internal investigation between 2010 and 2015 which confirmed particular individuals who now hold high office in the party, provided a regular supply of Venezuelan and Colombian prostitutes to persons within and without the party on a regular basis.
Moonilal dismissed his former colleague’s statements yesterday, saying he was unaware of any such investigation.
“I am not aware of any investigation. It certainly was not any investigation of any cabinet or any cabinet business. I am not sure if former minister Maharaj may have conducted his own inquiry into any matter. If he did, then surely the ministry would have a report and that report could be found and if there’s any claim of wrongdoing or criminal conduct, then such a report ought to go to the police,” he said.
“To my knowledge, when we look, there was some inquiry in 2011, 2012, I believe. I cannot accuse Mr Maharaj of suppressing information or knowledge of criminal wrongdoing and waiting until Dr Rowley made such an abominable allegation in Parliament Friday last to come out and confirm that. But certainly, if it was any criminal wrongdoing, it ought to have been passed on to the police.”
However, Maharaj yesterday called Moonilal’s statements ironic, given what he said was the level of involvement he (Moonilal) had in the investigation.
“It is indeed ironic that Dr Moonilal made this assertion, as it was the very same Dr Roodal Moonilal who was charged to investigate the individual in question for ONE of the TWO probes,” he said.
“Can Dr Moonilal indicate if it is true or not if he was commissioned at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Arima, by the political directorate to perform the investigation? This was not a cabinet or ministry-commissioned investigation, but rather a directive by the political leadership of the UNC to investigate what was being rumoured as criminal activity by a UNC appointee.
“To suggest otherwise, by asking for a report et cetera, is playing smart with foolishness while protecting the vilest of criminal activities with human trafficking. I am disappointed in and expected more of Dr Moonilal.”
Guardian Media asked Maharaj if he had documents to support his various claims.
However, he said: “These types of things, they don’t want to document.”
Responding to these new claims by Maharaj, Moonilal said: “I have not a clue about Larry Gomes or Sheldon Gomes Stadium. I never “performed” any investigation, nor have I ever been asked to so do. I recall a matter at the PTSC in the press, where former minister Maharaj undertook to inquire. This was in the press at the time.
“As I said today, the issue is human trafficking and the failure of the Rowley administration to address same as outlined in the US report. Any other matter is for the police.”
Meanwhile, Chaguanas West MP, Dinesh Rambally, has categorically denied authoring a letter to Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar seeking answers on the allegations which began circulating on social media. The letter, which surfaced online on Saturday and was under a Parliament letterhead, also cast allegations of another UNC MP “using the Felicity area to expand his trafficking business.”
In a release yesterday, Rambally labelled the letter a fake and said he was not its author.