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Monday 10 August, 2020

Kamla writes CoP, DPP and Integrity Commission over Smith report

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has written to the Police Commissioner, Director of Public Prosecutions and Chairman of the Integrity Commission, calling for an urgent probe into the report on former Sports Minister Darryl Smith. This is with regard to the $150,000 secret settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by his former personal assistant Carrie-Ann Moreau.

In the letter, Persad-Bissessar said there are “strong grounds" for suspecting that several criminal offences may have been committed as well as the possible breach of several provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act and the Code of Conduct.

In a statement on Friday, the UNC leader explained the reasoning behind her letters. She said it was based on recent revelations in a media report that raised what she described as an "undeniable prima facie case" for the possibility of the commission of several serious criminal offences including conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, misbehaviour in public office and a breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act Chapter 22:01 by several persons including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Smith and the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.

She also accused Dr Rowley of remaining silent until the controversy was brought in the public domain.

“When the contents of the report were leaked by the media, the Prime Minister reacted by attacking his own committee’s Report by making public pronouncements that impugned the integrity of the process which was utilized,” she stated.

“It is a complete abuse of power to bypass the financial regulatory framework and misuse public funds for the improper purpose of silencing an alleged victim of serious sexual harassment which she claims have been committed by a sitting Government Minister,” the Opposition Leader said.

The Opposition leader further questioned whether the Prime Minister, the AG, former Minister, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sport and attorney Michael Quamina conspired to use public funds to purchase the victim's silence.

“There was neither Cabinet nor Ministerial approval for this settlement, so it begs the question, on whose authority was this matter settled?” she raised.

The UNC head added that she is concerned with claims that the Prime Minister and Attorney General were fully aware of the terms of reference. This was reportedly said by one of the three who formed the investigative committee appointed by Dr Rowley.

She then questioned why the Prime Minister failed to refer this report to the DPP, CoP, or Integrity Commission for investigation.

“These are serious issues that require immediate action and urgent intervention by the COP, the DPP, and the Integrity Commission to determine whether the aforementioned laws have been breached. It is clear that there is a concerted and sustained effort by the government to sweep this matter under the carpet, and therefore ask that this matter is given the priority that it clearly deserves,” she concluded.

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