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Public interest in private lives: Reshmi, Kamla, Jack and sex in the media

Less than eight months after Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the People’s Partnership skilfully navigated the crest of a high wave in a sea of yellow and assumed governance of a nation, the name Reshmi Ramnarine entered the national vocabulary.

The PP government was elected on May 24, 2010. News of Ramnarine’s appointment as director of the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) was published in January 2011.

Photo: Reshmi Ramnarine (far right) shares a drink with Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh.
Photo: Reshmi Ramnarine (far right) shares a drink with Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh.

Neither the head of the National Security Council nor the newly appointed boss of spies saw what was coming their way, which incidentally ought to have immediately disqualified both Persad-Bissessar and Ramnarine from their respective new jobs and from anything that involved intelligence-gathering and reading public perception.

In 2010, Ramnarine suffered the brunt of criticisms over her appointment. She had entered the security agency as a junior technician earning a monthly salary of $5,000.

There was general confusion about her academic qualifications; a CV submitted to media houses by Ramnarine in 2007 listed a computer course—Microsoft Certified Systems and Engineer—done at UWI between April 4, 2005 and May 12, 2006; a Facebook posting of her CV on January 21, 2011 showed technical qualifications in computing but no academic qualifications beyond two A-Levels, in which she achieved passes at the lowest permissible level.

Then National Security Minister John Sandy, in attempting to justify Ramnarine’s appointment, said in Parliament on January 21, that she was a “graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI).”

Cabinet member Dr Suruj Rambachan elaborated that Ramnarine possessed a BSc in Information Technology and was at the time a second-year psychology student at UWI, St Augustine.

Photo: UNC deputy political leader Surujrattan Rambachan. (Courtesy www.news.gov.tt)
Photo: UNC deputy political leader Surujrattan Rambachan.
(Courtesy www.news.gov.tt)

There was no doubt, however, that whatever academic qualifications Ramnarine possessed were less than suitable to qualify her even as a candidate for the post of director of the country’s premier intelligence-gathering agency.

Ramnarine was favoured to replace Nigel Clement who, SSA Deputy Director Julie Browne wrote, “was in possession of 5 0’ Levels with grades Bs and Cs. Moreover, the majority of his career was spent as an ordinary naval officer in the TTCG.”

In the logic of Browne’s recommendation of Ramnarine, one unqualified director deserved another.

The appointment of Ramnarine was the first major blunder by the PP government.

At the time, rather than offer an intelligent explanation to the public, government spokespeople engaged in deflection, silence and spin until Persad-Bissessar stepped in with large-and-in-charge arrogance. Having encouraged her security personnel to “open the bubble” to the media in her honeymoon days as prime minister, Persad-Bissessar decidedly contracted said bubble and posted heavy security on its circumference.

Emancipation Support Committee had invited the Prime Minister to the Hilton Hotel deliver the feature address at its launch of the international Year for People of African Descent. Sadly for the ESC, very little attention was paid to its launch because the event was overtaken by the gaggle of eager reporters waiting outside for the Prime Minister, all seeking explanations on behalf of the public.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. (Courtesy Caricom.com)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Courtesy Caricom.com)

That was the infamous moment that Persad-Bissessar must surely hope the population has forgotten. She refused explanation with the vexed and dismissive: “Let’s move f’ward.”

From then to now, Persad-Bissessar has spoken of the Ramnarine appointment as her deepest regret.

On her Leaders Exchange appearance on CNMG, she must have been happy that the Ramnarine name appeared in a poorly-phrased question by Derek Ramsamooj; even so, her demeanour betrayed her discomfort when the name was mentioned.

Now, four years and seven months since that original outrage, former right-hand man and current accused, Jack Warner, has proffered to the public an explanation for what really happened. And the explanation involves national politics, the politics of vengeance and sexual politics.

Warner claimed last week that Ramnarine and several others were rewarded with high profile positions paid for by the State because of romantic and sexual relationships with the Prime Minister.

Photo: Ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner (left) and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar share a light moment during the 2010 FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago. Warner served as Works Minister and National Security Minister for the People's Partnership Government before his resignation in 2013. (Courtesy FIFA.com)
Photo: Ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner (left) and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar share a light moment during the 2010 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
Warner served as Works Minister and National Security Minister for the People’s Partnership Government before his resignation in 2013.
(Courtesy FIFA.com)

Further, he alleges that the Prime Minister, the ultimate leader in the Westminster model, “preyed” on young women and there is a sworn affidavit saying so. The Prime Minister said she referred the matter to her lawyers.

Oddly, however, traditional media has, for the most part, steered clear of the revelation.

The Guardian published a story on its front page two Sundays ago but without much detail. The Express has avoided it completely. CNC3 carried the story only in relation to Ramnarine, studiously ignoring the others who, Warner alleges, secured leading public positions paid for by public money.

At the time of Warner’s revelations about Kristyan Gokool, the media was understandably uncertain about how to write these allegations located in the prime ministerial chambers. By now, one would have thought the media would be better able to locate public interest in revelations and allegations about private lives.

But it is not only uncertainty that is making the media uncomfortable with these stories. It is also that the media in January 2011 focused its pens on Ramnarine much more than Persad-Bissessar who, as head of the National Security Council, appointed Ramnarine as SIA director.

The proper person from whom to seek answers is the Prime Minister, the giver, more so than Ramnarine, the receiver.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Leader of Government Minister Roodal Moonilal.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Leader of Government Minister Roodal Moonilal.

With or without Mr Warner’s allegations, the public has a right to be told how that January 2011 decision was made and why.

Mr Warner’s explanations are to be placed on public record just like Persad-Bissessar’s.  In the absence of “truth,” the public deserves to have all available information in their search for a convincing explanation for that first outrage.

AboutSheila Rampersad

Sheila Rampersad
Dr Sheila Rampersad is a member of the current MATT executive and the Women Working for Social Progress. She is a veteran columnist.

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51 comments

  1. In my opinion, our problems as a nation as it relates to leadership and governance, is the Truth that collectively, our nation is highly Uneducated in the world of Politics. This is evidenced by the chattering by so called “highly educated” people offering themselves for government MPs; when they list the amount of buildings, roads, box drains and “Projects” they completed in their allotted 5 years; completely ignoring/avoiding/forgetting and such, about the real factors that matter in people’s lives; such as cost of living, healthcare, poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse and the list goes on.

    The population have become accepting of this infinite wisdom when it comes to picking a “representative.” Every ad were there are members of the community speaking, there are photo’s of drains, roads etc., not a single word of improvements in their personal lives.

    Until the public is educated on what they are entitled to versus what should be automatic, this will continue to be the downfall of our country and the people thereof.

  2. MOUTH open…..awful stories jumping out…

  3. I still confused about this; according to Suruj…Ria had a BSc in IT…then decided to turn around and do a bachelors in psych? Is it just me…or anybody else wondering what kinda mad person does 2 degrees in diametrically opposed programmes…

  4. I think if the prime minister could make an appointment like that for such high position , it leaves you to think that it must have some truth to all these allegations ah mean anything could happen under the influence drugs and alcohol.

  5. Just a mess from day 1 and continued

  6. True Nerisha Mohammed,at that time there was a call for an investigation… To date none was/is forthcoming…. With all the utterances of Jack Warner,we have heard time and time again from the PM, about “IT’s IN THE HANDS OF MY LAWYERS”… am speaking about all that he has said whether on a weekly or monthly basis….To date,NOTHING YET… Now all of his utterances are serious allegations,I for one if there was not an inkling of truth in it,all now he before the courts… I am not saying that whatever he has said is the truth,but something is wrong…. just my humble and layman’s opinion

  7. Jack has no choice BUT to crawl on his belly because that’s how low the whole lot of them are.

  8. Well KPB may have been wearing a hibiscus in her hat at the time

  9. Potsticking media go cyah call out kettle bottom for being black. #justsaying

  10. Like Jack wanted to get in on the action too…Poor ting get leave out

  11. Amazing that we don’t care for details now. We should want it all the time so that we can make informed decisions. It shouldn’t only be offensive when its the party you’re supporting

  12. This is the dirtiest campaign on both sides.Mr Warner you are something else.God help our nation.

    • Jack Warner was Chairman and Deputy Leader of the UNC, handling monies and stories for years. Not to mention a stint a Minister of National Security where he had control of national surveillance apparati. If anyone can speak with authority about the backroom and bedroom dealings in the UNC it is he!

  13. Thank you Sheila…I agree that some people is fed up and prefer not to know (after all, these are so many scandals around that it is sickening), but some of us wants to know because we prefer to full educate ourselves on all aspects. So my advice to you Sheila is as a journalist please continue to publish stories and allow citizens to decipher for themselves what they want to dwell on….and please do not allow anyone to dictate what you should or should not write and share with the public. May God continue to bless you and have a good day Mam.

    • Thank you Sheila…I agree that people (some) may be fed up and prefer not to know (after all, there are so many scandals around that it is sickening), but some of us wants to know because we prefer to fully educate ourselves on all aspects. So my advice to you Sheila is – as a journalist please continue to publish stories and allow citizens to decipher for themselves what they want to dwell on….and another thing, do not allow anyone to dictate what you should or should not write and share with the public. May God continue to bless you and have a good day Mam.

  14. “Oddly, however, traditional media has, for the most part, steered clear of the revelation.”
    Oddly, indeed! The old adage says that sex sells and we know that what you call “traditional media” shows often inordinate interest in whatever is likely to sell. Any explanation for this uncharacteristic behaviour? Might it be that Jack Warner does not qualify as a reliable source? Is that not a story in itself?

    • Maybe, just maybe some high ranking media types are part of clique that the PM engages with resulting in friendly media cover for all involved? Can somebody say Anika Gumbs? A compromised journalist is the enemy of democracy!

      • Earl Best

        “A compromised journalist is the enemy of democracy!” I couldn’t agree more. And I would add this: “…particularly if that journalist is an editor.” And I offer two different names, Andy Johnson and Julian Rogers, while strongly resisting the urge to call your attention to Mr Ken Ali and his band of merry journalists at CNMG.

  15. I’m not one who is quick to buy anything Warner is selling. But if true, it is as relevant as if it were Chandresh Sharma helping a mistress to get a State contract.
    So I think the media has to look at it. Although we already know that the Reshmi thing was rotten to the core, even without this.

  16. Misrepresented her qualifications to the head of the National Security Council Eko Watts? Seriously?

  17. “the public has a right to be told how that January 2011 decision was made and why”. How on earth can someone be appointed to such a sensitive position and credentials not verified, no background check, etc…This was a horrible decision/failure on the part of the leadership. Reshmi showed lack of good character by providing false information on her resume. She is accountable to herself and her God for that. On the other hand, the leadership of the country is accountable to the population and the fact still remains that they failed miserably on count one of failure to do due diligence in vetting candidate(s) and count two failure to give an account to the population of the selection process. This fiasco tells me that any common criminal could have written up a resume, appointed to one of the highest offices in the land and the whole of T&T could have been sold to Google.

  18. Lasana, to be honest , that rumour has been circulating a long time now – that of the pm and Reshmi. In fact, I think that this was alluded to in the Mirror back when the Reshmi story hit.

  19. Jack did say publicly he would crawl on his belly to put her out of office so there’s nothing ‘suspect’ about his actions

  20. Public accountability has never been the forte of the PP or KPB.

  21. sex sells papers – that’s why articles like this get published

  22. Five years in government was to long a stay for the Sic PP .

  23. In the public interest, though, I thought there was a call for an investigation at the time of how this transpired. But certainly the timing is suspect. If persons had all of this information at hand why wasn’t it put in the public domain at the time. Looking at the source any right thinking person would conclude it is a desperate ploy to bring down the gov’t esp as no tangible evidence has been brought forward in any of these allegations of sexual misconduct.

    • The fundamental issue here is not so much the sexual escapades of Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar (although that does have some impact on the preservation of decency of the office she would have held). Notwithstanding, the bigger and deeper question is public accountability for the appointment of an unqualified and incompetent individual to a position that has far reaching implications for the security of our nation. What brings the sexual conduct allegations into stark relief is that the lady has never answered questions posed re. the appointment. Her “let’s move on” statement cannot and will not be accepted. She herself has cast even more suspicion on the former issue by not accounting to the citizens. That is our money being spent so she owes us an explanation. But that is what we get as a people for allowing politicians to believe that they are the government when they are not. They have simply been hired to do a job.

      My own spin is that Reshmi was given that position for her IT skills which would have been used for precisely what Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar claimed they were doing….spying. Sadly that is the pathology of the 6th Prime Minister of Trinidadd & Tobago.

  24. Warner has cried wolf so many times that even the scandal-hungry media have become tired of him. I don’t think we need his belated explanations to figure out that the Reshmi affair was rotten. We’ve known this for more than four years. And here’s the bottom line of our rancid political culture: Warner, Gypsy, COP, TOP, NJAC… all of them cosigned on nepotism of the stinkest order because they finally had a place at the table to gorge themselves.

    • Lasana Liburd

      I agree on all points. If proven, it is as relevant as Chandresh Sharma helping his mistress to get State contracts though. So the media still has to consider it. But I doubt it can be proven.

  25. Reshmi may have misrepresented her qualifications to the PM in helping her make the decision to insert her as her “insider” in the MoNS

  26. I put this story in the context of KPB struggling to get the tiger JW off her back. I remember someone first place Subas Panday in the MoNS then the poor minister who was pulled over for drunk driving after JW had successfully staved of a reduction of his portfolio and the auditing of Project PURE

  27. Was that the house that JW rent for Kams to get on freaky? Sly old Surage.

  28. I’ll be happy if I don’t hear her anytime in the near future

  29. I agree with Mel. I’m too weary of all these scandals. Especially these sex scandals. Right now I just want them out. Whether Tanty like young men or young women….who cares?

  30. Sheila thinks the public has a right to be told about the decision..At this 99th hour I don’t need any explanation again nah

  31. Is it that Sheila gets an orgasm from digging into public officials sex lives or she is downright fass?
    Some stories are none stories and shud die a natural death. Who cares about KPB sex life other than Sheila? Very disgusting.

    • This article was so well put together. Great unbiased analysis with a simple theorem – ‘The public deserves an explanation’ Maybe Mr. Ambris thinks we don’t however, because his response was so ignorant it shows why some ppl should never be given the power to decide for others. What then do we deserve kind sir? Blind loyalty in any form is worse than no loyalty. The moral of the story has nothing to do with anyone’s sex life. Is comprehension no longer on our school’s curriculum??? Then how did he miss the topic? Is he implying that the fact that an unqualified person was put in charge of our nation’s security information (for reasons remaining unknown) should die a natural death??? Or what ARE the things that should-and no longer be ventilated? Please tell us those topics that should die a natural death across the political divide. Or maybe Ms. Rampersad needed to include some pop-up pictures for him and Niala to understand the passage?!

    • In 2010 the Prime Minister campaigned on, “Integrity, Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency! I guess that means naught to you…