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Moonilal: Opposition won’t be silenced in call for JSC talks

PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley is ‘telegra phing’ Government members to reject the Opposition’s request for an urgent meeting of the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee (JSC) to discuss changes at the Strategic Services Agency (SSA).

So said Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, who yesterday took umbrage with Rowley’s comments at a People’s National Movement (PNM) public meeting in Enterprise, Chaguanas, on Thursday.

On March 5, Moonilal and Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial wrote to JSC chairman Keith Scotland, requesting that the committee be convened urgently to discuss the SSA shakeup.

It was announced last weekend that SSA director Major Roger Best was sent on adminis trative leave and Ambassador Anthony Phillips-Spender was appointed to act in his place and conduct a review and audit of SSA personnel, equipment and processes.

Scotland replied to the Opposition members, proposing that a virtual meeting be held yesterday for the committee to collectively make a decision on the request.

The Express understands the meeting was postponed to Monday.

On Thursday evening, the Prime Minister criticised the Opposition’s demand for him to answer questions on the SSA matter.

He criticised the Opposition UNC, saying they are an ‘irresponsible, mad bunch’, and he was not an irresponsible leader to speak about the matter that is under investigation.

In response to questions from the Express yesterday, Moonilal said the Opposition will not be silenced.

‘The Prime Minister is clearly telegraphing to his members at the JSC that they ought not to support any investigation or examination on this SSA matter. It flies in the face of good governance, of accountability and transparency,’ he said.

He said the Opposition members, as well as Independent Senator Paul Richards, have already expressed a clear view on this matter, and it would be an ‘act of maladministration’ and ‘recklessness’ to allow this matter to rest without the public being told with accurate information why Best was replaced and under what circumstances.

‘The Cabinet took this decision on March 2, a Saturday, at 10 p.m.; they met and took the decision at midnight. That is a very serious matter and the Prime Minister ought to explain,’ he added.

Moonilal said there were numerous questions for Rowley to answer.

‘The Prime Minister ought to say when did he approach Brigadier Anthony Phillips-Spencer because if the decision was taken Saturday night, Mr Spencer is in America and he comes Sunday to collect his instrument from the President, so he knew before.

‘The Prime Minister knew before, so he used the Cabinet as a rubber stamp in this matter with certain intentions when he knew before the actions he was going to take,’ Moonilal alleged.

‘In the Parliament, Rowley could not say whether Best was the subject of a police investigation; he could not say whether the files, reports and intelligence have been tampered with; he could not say whether the report of Brigadier Phillips-Spencer would be laid in the Parliament. He could say nothing except he confirms this diabolical development,’ he said.

Said Moonilal: ‘I want to tell Mr Rowley that we will not surrender, we will defend our democracy and we will defend the rights of all citizens, and we have a right to ask questions in and out of the Parliament, and he will not silence the Opposition.

‘We will continue to press on with asking the questions as it relates to this very suspicious development.’

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