Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar made some sweeping changes to her government – a few months before the general election.
She fired five members of her Cabinet, including the country’s Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Garry Griffith, Justice Minister Emmanuel George, Sports Minister Rupert Griffith and removed the President of the Senate Timothy Hamel-Smith on Monday night.
The shake-up came in the wake of a police investigation in an alleged witness tampering scandal involving the attorney general, which has also led to the firing of the National Security Minister Gary Griffith (a witness in the matter).
Ramlogan is the first attorney general in Trinidad and Tobago to be fired. The other MP to get the axe was Embau Moheni, minister in the Ministry of National Security.
She has appointed former T&T High Commissioner to the UK, Garvin Nicholas as attorney general and retired Brigadier General Carl Alfonso as national security minister.
Other new appointments were leader of the Congress of the People (one of the coalition partners in the People’s Partnership government) Prakash Ramadhar, as minister of justice (in addition to his portfolio of legal affairs minister), former national footballer Brent Sancho, as sports minister, Kwasi Mutema, minister in the Ministry of Works), Christine Newallo-Hosein, minister of the People and Social Development (which was formerly held by PM Persad-Bissessar) and Stacy Roopnarine, minister in the Ministry of Gender Affairs.
In her television address to the nation on Monday night, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar dedicated just one line to her outgoing Attorney General saying; “Attorney General has vehemently denied the allegation” (of witness tampering).
She criticized the actions of former National Security Minister Griffith and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) director David West for not bringing to her attention the matter of the alleged witness tampering by the AG.
She suggested that Griffith had a moral obligation to tell her if and when Ramlogan had asked him to place a call to West (seeking to have West withdraw his witness statement) and if he had done so, the situation would have been different today, adding, that Griffith had admitted making “such a call.”
The prime minister also called for the resignation of West as PCA director.
She asserted West’s office as Director of the PCA had been compromised and brought into disrepute by the allegations, along with the office of the attorney general and minister of national security.
West is a witness of fact for Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley in the Section 34 defamation lawsuit filed against him by Ramlogan.
West alleged he was approached by the former AG to withdraw his statement in exchange for the appointment to head the PCA.
The alleged approach came six days before West was appointed to the post.
The controversy, which was first exposed by a daily newspaper took a dramatic turn last week when West visited the acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and presented him with a signed statement in which he confirmed the allegations of “an attempt to pervert the course of justice” against Ramlogan.
Ramlogan’s four-and-a-half year tenure has been turbulent as he has been involved in many controversies but this one is the most serious and threatening to all.’
Some of the controversies include emailgate, which involve allegations against top office holders; Prisongate in which the solicitor general alleged a conspiracy relating to prison litigation matters, which led to her resignation; the Section 34 bill; the sending out of a release purportedly authored by the chief solicitor when it was not; the Range Rover controversy; the Chaguanas West by-election in which his vehicle was involved in an alleged hit and run accident and the war of words with the former PCA director Jillian Lucky (now a High Court judge) over the leaking of the PCA report into an alleged Flying Squad in the Police Service.