|GLENN STAYS AS MP |
By Clint Chan Tack and Sasha Harrinanan Wednesday, April 9 2014
PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said her decision to fire United National Congress (UNC) Caroni Central MP Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh as Minister of the People and Social Development Minister was made before new allegations were raised by a woman against him.
While stating there are no plans to remove Ramadharsingh as an MP or to expel him from the UNC, Persad-Bissessar said these are matters which the party will have to discuss in due course. Persad-Bissessar is also UNC political leader.
Speaking with reporters following a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s, the Prime Minister was asked whether she knew about these allegations against Ramadharsingh before it came out in a daily newspaper.
She disclosed on the same day she fired Ramadharsingh for his misbehaviour on a Caribbean Airlines flight from Tobago, she received a text from a journalist alerting her to a new report about him.
“On the same day that I relieved the minister of his duty (March 25), I was advised via a text message from someone at the Sunday Express that there’s another story coming out on Dr Ramadharsingh,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar explained: “So on that said day, the text was sent to me and I texted back and I said “Any details?” I have the texts by the way, still on my phone, and in that text the reporter who sent it, the reporter was not asking me any question.” She added, “The reporter was just giving me information, and the details suggest there’s an allegation made by a woman but the matters (facts) that were in the story, those details were not shared with me.”
Persad-Bissessar noted Ramadharsingh had denied the allegations in a statement he issued over the weekend.
“At the moment that is all that I can stand on. I am not aware whether there’s a police investigation or not,” she said.
The woman made allegations about Ramadharsingh’s conduct in 2011 and earlier this year. The police are investigating her report having taken a statement from her, and are expected to interview Ramadharsingh and other persons.
Asked if these allegations influenced her decision to fire Ramadharsingh, Persad-Bissessar replied, “My decision had already been made. My decision was made on the basis of the allegations coming out of the incident on Caribbean Airlines.”
She reminded reporters that she had “requested the actual reports from Caribbean Airlines, from Airports Authority and from the minister himself.”
“I read all those reports, his responses to it and it was on that basis that I made by decision. By the time these allegations had arisen, I had already made by decision,” Persad-Bissessar stated.
A flight attendant had reported to airport officials that Ramadharsingh had refused her request for him to change seats, had threatened that she could lose her job and touched her breast when he reached for her name tag. She also said the then Minister appeared to be drunk.
Asked if there were plans to remove Ramadharsingh as an MP, the Prime Minister said, “There is no law for removal of an elected member of Parliament, except if it is that they resign or are expelled from a party. Then you can go to the Speaker (of the House), like what happened with (former) Justice Herbert Volney.”
Last year, Volney was expelled from Parliament for joining the Independent Liberal Party after resigning from the UNC, and his seat as the St Joseph MP was declared vacant triggering a bye- election won by the Terrence Deyalsingh of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
Stating there are no plans to expel Ramadharsingh from the UNC, Persad-Bissessar said, “I felt, given the allegations that were made (CAL incident), that he should not (be) a minister but certainly, as a member of the party, he will have his day in the sun, in terms of the investigation and should there be a prosecution or otherwise.”
Recalling charges were made against former PNM government ministers Franklin Khan and Eric Williams were subsequently dropped, Persad-Bissessar said, “So whilst the investigations are (on-going) there is no set matter. It is my respectful view at this time, the person should not be ‘fired’ as such.”
After saying this is a matter the UNC’s national executive needed to discuss, reporters asked the Prime Minister when would this meeting happen. “As soon as we can,” she said.
Also last night, National Security Minister Gary Griffith told Newsday reports that a Central Trinidad businessman had been arrested for attempting to bribe the woman who filed the complaint against Ramadharsingh were false.
“I have done a check with Police Headquarters and all police districts in the country. No such arrest has been made,” Griffith said.
Persad-Bissessar also commented on reports about an audit of the People and Social Development Ministry about “recycling” street dwellers. “That’s a very interesting matter. I read on the newspaper that I’d given instructions for someone to be fired. I gave no such instructions, in fact when I leave here ((Hilton Trinidad), I’m going down to the Ministry of the People to enquire into this entire matter.”
Persad-Bissessar took charge of the ministry after firing Ramadharsingh.
“No information was shared with me that anyone was going to be fired, firstly. No information was shared with me that there was any such allegation, as in the newspaper. So I’ll get a report from them when I visit later this evening.”
Asked how she has been handling these additional responsibilities, Persad-Bissessar replied, “ I like that ministry, I like the work. As you remember, it was my concept for this Ministry of the People. I haven’t settled in yet but I look forward so to doing.” She indicated upon assuming this portfolio, she “had asked for various documentation to come forward - staffing, programmes, projects, PSIP projects, recurring expenditure projects.” “I had all of those, I spent my entire weekend reading that bundle and now I have a lot of questions, so when I go down to visit them later, I’ll get some answers to those questions and get the projects up to date,” Persad-Bissessar added.