By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — A thread of scandalous and potentially incriminating emails said to have been exchanged between top ranking government officials in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership government in Trinidad and Tobago was at the heart of a motion of no confidence brought against the government by opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley on Monday.
Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley in parliament on Monday, pointing a finger both literally and figuratively at the government. Photo: Trinidad Express
The parliamentary debate saw a chain of issues arising from the proclamation of a legislative provision know as section 34, including a possible intention to cause physical harm to local journalist Denise Renne; the tapping of phone lines in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); bribes to the DPP; and an implicating of chief justice Ivor Archie being unveiled to members of the lower house by the opposition leader.
In his expose, Rowley revealed that email exchanges took place between email addresses firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and one captain Griffith, discussing matters that could affect the government and or key ministers negatively.
The Diego Martin West MP said some of the email addresses are known to him.
One of the emails from anand to captain Griffith sought Griffith’s intervention regarding a story the parties to the email did not want published. The email demanded that Griffith threaten the Trinidad Guardian newspaper with regard to advertising so that the article will not come out.
The next day on September 9, an article appeared on the newspaper’s front page that read: “Piarco airport inquiry to be dropped”.
Anand pursued Captain Griffith for his help, and the same day another email said: “Call a meeting, we need to talk urgently.”
Someone referred to as PM in the emails then called a special meeting the next day on Monday, September 10, 2012.
An email from firstname.lastname@example.org to anand asked: “What is going on, how could this happen, I thought you had friends in the Guardian?” Anand replied: “I saw the article, not to worry, remember the opposition supported this, that will be our defence.”
Thirty-one of the emails and their contents were disclosed in sequence; the communications taking place over a period of seventeen days in September 2012 — a time that coincided with the government’s requirement to deal with a certain matter, the opposition leader pointed out.
“When corroborated, the known and unknown paints a frightening future,” noted Rowley.
Starting off in not so revealing terms, an email was sent on 17 September, from email address email@example.com that read: “Kim my lady please relax, everything in place we will soon chat.”
A few hours later a response from email address firstname.lastname@example.org at 2:00am saying: “I am worried AG, I do not want this to blow up in our faces.”
A follow up between Kamlab1@gmail.com to email@example.com read: “Are you sure everything is in place? Did you chat with the DPP and find out about this, try and find out? By the way, she says you are asking for much money.”
Describing the email messages as corroboratory proof of events happening in the country at the time of the exchanges, the opposition leader said something happened in August 2012, when the government, secretly and surreptitiously, announced and proclaimed legislation (section 34) passed in this house and Trinidad and Tobago was not the same.
The opposition leader chided the government for what he said was their use of the entire state’s machinery to try to explain itself, but no one was able to answer a simple question: “why was section 34 extracted, piecemeal, why was it done?” The government was never able to answer that, Rowley said.
The emails disclosed how the government would blame the opposition for its role in the proclamation of section 34, having voted for it, and even hold the DPP complicit in the matter. The email further pointed to former Minister Herbert Volney’s termination being a mere distraction and a red herring in the matter.
Another email message read: “We are the ones taking the risk at the end of this I want a helipad on my roof top, there is no price for freedom.”
“Whose freedom was being discussed, whose freedom was being bought?” Rowley asked, craving protection of the speaker against persistent interruption from the government benches.
Speaker Wade Mark then warned the opposition leader that he must take responsibility for the content of all letters and all emails read in the house, to which Rowley retorted with a quote about freedom of speech and responsibility, assuring his every intention to take full responsibility.
Recently, Rowley had accused the government of engaging in a criminal conspiracy. Shortly after he received a package with the supposedly incriminating emails, which he ensured were authentic before taking them to parliament.
“When I saw the emails my first reaction was to ensure that it was not frivolous, I wanted to be sure that the information from the whistle blower was serious,” Rowley said.
When he was satisfied they were serious, he took them to the president. After six months when he saw the matter was not dealt with, he thought it was time to take it to the people through the parliament.
The package of emails led the opposition to call a vote of no confidence in the prime minister for the second time in as many months.
Rowley said he brought it as a substantive motion to let the people of the country know what happened and why the government cannot be taken at face value.
What is bothersome is that the emails can mean anything said Rowley.
In what seemed an intense and frantic point of the email exchanges, firstname.lastname@example.org told anand: “Deal with this mess,” to which anand replied expressing his doubt that the Guardian reporter had proof to publish an article the parties in the email would rather not go public. Anand then undertook to retain a lawyer to refute whatever the reporter wrote.
Later, a release was posted by the attorney general on the Trinidad and Tobago government website, taking issue with the article.
Following this, a follow up email from anand to Kamlapb1 read, “Don’t worry, I just sent out a release.”
“I view this as corroboration of intent in the email, and it arriving on the website,” asserted Rowley.
Another email from anand read: “We need access to tap the DPP’s office. We have a problem, things are getting heated, I need access to tap in the DPP’s office, I want to know what his next move is, how soon can you arrange?”
Captain Griffith replied seven days later: “I will call SSA (Strategic Services Agency) and get B (head of the SSA Bisnath Maharaj), Dhanpat is out of the country, he will be against this move, you know he leaks.”
Anand: “I gave instructions to B to send him Germany for this week.”
Another Email from captain Griffith to anand read: “Everything is already in place in DPP office, nothing is out of the ordinary yet, spoke with PM and she is serious about the article.”
Anand: “What about the reporter tap her as well? Guardian says she has a copy of Lewis’s advice…”
Next email from Anand: “That effing whore don’t have “S” on me, more than likely – Do a trace on her, every reporter has skeletons in their closet… and post it to our FB (facebook) people.”
Shortly after, explained Rowley, there was a most vicious and slanderous attack on reporter Denise Renne, which went viral on Facebook.
A message from Captain Griffith said that this action will take the heat off for a while.
The charade continued with a message from Kamlapbl to anand @gmail, on Tuesday September 10, 2012: “The US contacted me and are ‘effing’ angry, I thought you had a hold on this, this will cause major backlash, come up with a plan AG.”
In his effort to connect the dots, Rowley said the next day, the US embassy took serious issue with how the Trinidad and Tobago government handled the extradition matter concerning Ish and Steve, and a statement from DPP saying “it took me by surprise.”
The “emails pointing to state of mind, state of play to trouble that was coming in the morning,” Rowley said.
The opposition leader believes the collaboration of the parties in the email exchanges was meant to protect persons facing serious criminal charges at home and abroad…
“Question is why did you extract section 34 and proclaim it. What we had was the government handing us the head of the justice minister on a platter even though he said not me the AG,” Rowley said.
An email from kamlapbl, on September 11 stated: “Right now our best bet will be giving Gaspard a position on the bench and bring in a replacement. We could also feed our media people that Gaspard was part of the consultation this year and he did not have a problem.”
This “action is to place DPP in a position to hold him complicit,” explained Rowley.
The damning emails also saw chief justice Ivor Archie tangled up in this web of serious proportions if investigations by the cyber crime unit and other relevant investigating bodies can reveal the real names of the parties involved in the emails and from whose devices they were sent.
Kamlapb1: “Have a chat with Archie, let them offer him the position, Archie is normally cooperative.”
Kamlap1: “Have you dealt with the mess yet, we are getting bad press, deal with this AG.”
Questions were raised between the parties in the email exchanges as to how reporter Renne knew so much, who is her source and the pursuit of her track record followed.
It was revealed that the reporter does have a history, she was at an institution in Florida recently, her father was in jail; and there was a promise to add more to her files.
Following this, an email was circulated with details about Denise Renne’s past and other information that she refuted as lies.
Another response via email from anand on Wednesday 19, 2012 to email@example.com, was titled: “Deal with the problem”.
“This bitch is becoming a problem to me; I am told she has copies of documents and possible cheques. I don’t want to leave anything to chance, I passed info to FB (facebook) and they would eff her up, do something else to slow her… PM is angry, I assured her I will deal with this. Deal with this bitch soon,” the email went on…
Rowley asked the Speaker to look at the corroboration revolving around this issue and how it connects to what was happening in the country at the time.
The section 34 issue; a plan to foil the extradition of Ish and Steve to the US; and the US’s response expressing disappointment about the action taken to protect Ish and Steve and the breaking stories by journalist Denise Renne.
The vote of no-confidence against the government is quickly becoming a cloud over the parliament as this is the third time the opposition has struck the People’s Partnership government with such a motion.
Last year, on March 2 and 3, the first motion was debated against the prime minister and her cabinet; then a similar motion was debated against the attorney general on October 26 and 27.
With the government’s 29 to 12 majority in the lower house, the motion of no-confidence is merely symbolic. It is unlikely to remove the government from office, but it does alert the population and the government of crucial issues pertaining to governance and the running of the country.