'I'M NO DRUNK'
By COREY CONNELLY Wednesday, September 5 2012
Saying he did not regret Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s decision to fire him “one iota,” former Minister in the Ministry of National Security Collin Partap yesterday made it clear that he was “not a drunk,” nor did he refuse to take a breathalyser test after being asked to do so by police officers outside of the newly re-opened Zen nightclub in Port-of-Spain, more than two weeks ago.
Breaking his silence on the now infamous matter during a hastily-called news conference at his Cumuto/Manzanilla constituency office, in Guaico, Sangre Grande, yesterday, a confident Partap, 38, claimed he was verbally abused by the police officers who had initially asked him to stop the vehicle he was driving after they spotted blue swivel lights emanating from it, moments after he left the popular nightclub, at the corner of Keate and Frederick Streets, during the early hours of August 19.
Regarding the flashing lights on the vehicle, Partap yesterday explained, “I made some mistakes and I think that was done accidentally at that point in time. You don’t know if the lights are on or not. You can’t tell from the inside of the vehicle because it is on the grill. Maybe, I had put it on accidentally when I went to put on the AC (Air Condition Unit).”
After he was asked to pull the vehicle to the side of the street at about 5 am, Partap, son of former UNC minister Harry Partap (now Ambassador to South Africa), yesterday said the officers then asked him to submit to a breathalyser test which he agreed to.
He sought to clarify acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams’ role in the incident, particularly as it related to the administering of the breathalyser test.
“When I pulled over to the side of the road, I heard some utterances from the police officers and being a citizen, not only a minister at that time, it got me gravely concerned — concerned beyond belief of what I heard. That made me think, ‘What if I take the breathalyser, what would be the result? I wanted some body independent there. I think anyone of you would have felt that way,” he told reporters, in full view of constituents who crammed the small office at the corner of Guaico/Tamana Road and the Eastern Main Road, to lend support.
Partap, who has kept a low profile since the incident, was flanked by Cumuto/Manzanilla constituency officials as well as councillors and aldermen of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation. Claiming he had fully complied with the requests of the police officers and at no time was told he was under arrest throughout the ordeal, Partap insisted they were verbally abusive in their approach.
Asked if he recalled specifically what the police officers had told him, Partap said he would paraphrase.
“Now remember I am a Minister of National Security of all other things and if you heard the utterances in the back (of the police vehicle), ‘We gonna get this one tonight’ - to that effect. What would you do?” he asked.
“I did not ask for the commissioner to come and bail me out. I asked for the commissioner to be an independent observer as to when the test was going to be administered.”
Partap, a lawyer by profession, also claimed he was also treated somewhat aggressively when he entered the police vehicle to get to Belmont Police Station.
“I went into the vehicle and sat right behind the driver. I was told ‘Get around. Move over.’ I moved over and I was whisked away into the police station. You would have sworn there was a fire of some sort. At the police station when we arrived, ‘Get out,’ I looked over.‘ Get out.’ I again complied. At no point did I not comply with the police request,” he claimed.
Minister of National Security Jack Warner, however, said in an almost immediate response to the incident that the police officers’ approach to Partap was never confrontational.
In a statement last Monday, Warner chastised Partap for telephoning Williams and said the former minister’s request was unfounded.
“The Ministry of National Security conducted its own investigations which reveal that there was no evidence of any confrontational situation between the then Minister Partap and any police officer and as such the then minister’s request for the presence of the acting Commissioner of Police was deemed injudicious, unnecessary and inappropriate,” Warner had said in an e-mailed press release.
“A report on the circumstances was submitted for consideration of the Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Following discussions with the then Minister Partap, the Prime Minister took the decision to advise the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency, Professor George Maxwell Richards to revoke the appointment of Minister Partap with immediate effect.”
Partap yesterday declined comment on Warner’s statements. Contrary to media reports, Partap, giving his version of the events, said he first called his lawyer (whom he did not name) when he was asked to submit to a breathalyser test at the Belmont Police Station.
He said, “I first called my lawyer and he didn’t answer the phone. I then tried the deputy commissioner and he didn’t answer. I tried the commissioner (Stephen Williams) and on the second time he answered.”
Partap repeated he never wanted the commissioner to grant him any favours.
“But, I just wanted him to be an independent observer as to what was going to take place — an independent observer.”
When Williams arrived at the police station, Partap said, the top cop immediately advised him of his options.
“I went into the station. I was asked to do the breathalyser. The commissioner arrived a few minutes later. And, I must say the commissioner acted professionally. He came, he told me of my options which I already knew — either to take it (breathalyser) or take the charge. I said, ‘Commissioner I will take the breathalyser. I just want you here to witness.’”
Partap, who maintained that his decision to contact Williams was not an abuse of his power as a minister, claimed the test showed he was under the limit.
“There is a study that shows that the alcohol decay rate in someone’s system is .01 micro grammes per hour. My reading, I was told, was .28 (micro grammes), which means even if I had been there for two hours, I would have been below the level, which is .35,” he claimed.
“At no point in time was I drunk and I want to dispel the allegations that are being levelled against me that I was drunk. I was drunk at no point in time — no point in time that night and no point in time after.”
Describing the incident as “unfortunate,” the MP said it was a source of great “heartache to myself and my family.”
Partap, who also dispelled claims that he had entered the vehicle with a bottle of alcohol, said he was particularly peeved by the fact that photographs of him taking the breathalyser test and talking to persons on his cellular phone were taken at the police station and posted on social networking sites. Insisting the photographs were taken by police officers since there were no civilians in the police station at the time he was there, Partap said he intends to write the relevant authorities to investigate the matter.
He complained, “There were pictures circulating of me in the police station — two pictures — one of me taking the breathalyser and me sitting there on the phone. No one knows who I was calling or which call I received but everyone is quick to make judgement — Oh, he is calling for help....”
Partap added, “I have been the butt of many jokes over the last week — drunk minister.
“Those pictures were taken by police officers. I have no doubt about that. There was no civilian in the police station when I arrived and I want to call upon the relevant authorities and I will be writing to them to investigate that matter because a normal citizen should not have to go through that. When you are taking a breathalyser you should not be on TV or the newspaper. This has gone viral. This has gone to many countries in the world.”PARTAP from Page 3A
Asked what course of action he was likely to take in this regard, he told reporters, “You will know soon enough.”
Williams had told a news conference last Wednesday that the police was seeking advice on whether or not to charge the former minister.
“Complete investigations will be conducted in relation to that matter and the advice of the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) will be sought, in order to determine whether to prosecute the ex-minister for his refusal in the first instant to submit to a breath test,” Williams had told reporters during the weekly media briefing at Police Administration Building.
“As the Commissioner of Police, I am responsible for taking decisions as I see fit which are within the law and which are responsible. In my opinion the action taken by me was reasonable.”
DPP Roger Gaspard could not be reached for comment yesterday.
As he awaits an outcome to the investigation, which is now in the hands of the DPP, Partap said he had “no malice for anyone.”
“I just want to say my side of the story. Which is I am not a drunk. I did not refuse to take the breathalyser. That is what I want the general public to know and my constituents,” he said.
He also apologised profusely to his constituents, promising to re-double his efforts in bringing services and amenities to the region.
“Over the last week, it know it would have been hard for me. I know it would have been hard for you all. To my constituents, I know that it would have been hard for you all to know that your MP has been going through this in some shape form of fashion and I would like to apologise to you for any hardships that I have caused — profoundly apologise.
“And I want my constituents to know that now I have been freed of ministerial portfolio, I will be here to make sure that you have the representation and the delivery of services that you so sorely need and so sorely deserve,” Partap said, adding that he was elected to serve as an MP and not a minister.
He also thanked Persad-Bissessar for giving him the opportunity to serve as a minister over the past two years.
Asked if he felt the Prime Minister (PM) acted hastily in firing him, Partap said, “I never said that the PM acted out of haste and I don’t regret the PM’s decision one iota. The PM had to make a decision that affects her Government. What I have stated is what happened.
“I am not going to comment on the Prime Minister’s decision. She made the decision on the facts that were available to her at the time. My opinion is that the PM did what she had to do,” he added. Partap was first appointed Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister when the People’s Partnership won the May 24, 2010, general election. During the PM’s June 2011 Cabinet reshuffle, he was shifted to the National Security Ministry as a junior minister. Partap’s removal as a minister has now made him a backbencher — the first and only on the Government’s benches in the Parliament.