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SSA chief’s removal alarms Griffith, Moonilal

The removal of Strategic Services Agency (SSA) Director Major Roger Best without a full and proper explanation gives the perception that he was involved in the alleged “security threat” which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley alluded to yesterday.

This according to former police commissioner Gary Griffith, who told the Express yesterday that the removal of the SSA head is akin to the United States President removing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) head and not offering a full explanation as to why this was done.

The Office of the Prime Minister announced in a media release on Sunday that Best was sent on administrative leave.

“The National Security Council has recommended to the Cabinet that the head of the SSA be replaced immediately and that new leadership and management be installed with despatch. This recommendation has been effected and, as of Saturday, March 2, the head of the SSA has been sent on administrative leave.”

Ambassador Brigadier-General Anthony Phillips-Spencer was recalled from Washington and appointed to act as SSA head.

Griffith said the comments of a security threat made by the Prime Minister, who chairs the National Security Council, raises further questions.

“There will always be national security threats to the country, but if there is a security threat of such magnitude that the head needs to be removed immediately and have the police intervene to take full control of the SSA and all the equipment, inclusive of all the interception, that is a very serious matter. He (Rowley) cannot just generalise and not clarify what he means,” said Griffith.

Rowley said yesterday nothing was seized from the SSA.

Griffith said sending Best on administrative leave, and then citing there was a threat or an issue, leaves the door open for speculation that Best was involved in this and therefore a full explanation is needed.

‘Dramatic’ decision

The call for answers from the Prime Minister also came from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.

In a release yesterday, he said a “plausible” explanation must be given for the “dramatic” removal of Best.

The Prime Minister must urgently state why Best was summarily replaced and SSA’s compounds were invaded and spy equipment and other sensitive and expensive equipment placed under police control.

The SSA is an independent agency facilitated by parliamentary legislation and is not under the purview of the Police Service, he noted.

“The Prime Minister must state whether the police obtained a search warrant before pouncing on the SSA’s premises,” said Moonilal.

He further called on the Prime Minister to say exactly when did the Cabinet decide on the removal of Best.

“The alarming decision is designed to manipulate this critical intelligence agency. The disturbing events are taking place in a general election season and in light of the Government’s known penchant for targeting political opponents,” said Moonilal.

He said further that the announcement of a planned audit is also a well-known PNM Government tactic aimed at assailing the character of public officials targeted by Rowley and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

“This dastardly approach was used to ‘audit and investigate’ former commissioner of police Gary Griffith in relation to the granting of firearm user’s licences. To this date not a single person has been arrested or charged in relation to that political witch-hunt,” he said.

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