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Is Carmona’s mother-in-law employed at President’s House? President snubs FOIA request

Is President Anthony Carmona’s mother-in-law, Savitri Seetaram-Singh, employed by the Office of the President? Has she travelled abroad with the President’s family? And, if so, who paid for her airfare and accommodation?

These are some of the questions put to President’s House, through the Freedom of Information Act, by civic watch group, Fixin’ T&T, who requested information on Carmona’s staff.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona. (Copyright News.gov.tt)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona.
(Copyright News.gov.tt)

However, the Office of the President pointed out that it is not bound by the FOIA and refused to answer.

“I am instructed to advise that the Act, by virtue of its [section] 5(1)(a), does not apply to the requested information,” stated the Secretary to the President, in response. “Your request is therefore respectfully refused.”

Section 5(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act states: “This Act does not apply to the President…”

Thus far, Carmona has ignored questions over his controversial acceptance of a TT$28,000 housing allowance despite being provided State housing and also snubbed queries over recent allegations with regards to his use of State funds.

The Office of the President also failed to accede to requests for information from the Auditor General which, in its 2016 report on the President’s House, noted that:

“There were 85 instances of incorrect classification of expenditure totalling TT$2,685,236.90 in contravention of Financial Regulation 65 [and] TT$300,444.92 sampled from total purchases amounting to TT$685,469.22 for the President’s household were not entered in the Inventory Register.”

Photo: Wine to the side! A curious label on a bottle of wine has raised questions for President Anthony Carmona. (Courtesy Rhoda Bharath)
Photo: Wine to the side! A curious label on a bottle of wine has raised questions for President Anthony Carmona.
(Courtesy Rhoda Bharath)

A video blog by university lecturer, blogger and talk show co-host Rhoda Bharath alleged last week that Carmona used State funds to buy jewellery for his wife, Reema Harrysingh-Carmona, and revealed a picture that showed the seal of the Office of the President on  a bottle of the wine.

Carmona’s only statement to go remotely near to that topic, so far, came in his 2016 Republic Day address:

“There is simply too much journalistic overreach going on today. There are some journalists and I repeat some, who denigrate without evidential basis, engaged in armchair journalism who hear something by the ways and it becomes reliable news. There are persons in reality media, who are bad examples for our children and the youth of this Nation.

“Decent, law-abiding citizens must take a stance because it appears, that offensive is in and decency is out. Theirs has become the language of obscenity and racial slurs-yes, that small circle that is leading the national dialogue, you are not the voice of the people because you have unfettered and unfair access to the press and media, because you have created vlogs and videos that rely for viewership and followers, not on proper and responsible research and wisdom but on distortions and sensationalism.”

Carmona, while admonishing the supposed diminishing moral authority in local society, did not seek to clear the Office of the President from the questions related to his own conduct or respond directly to Bharath’s allegations.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona is snapped before a meeting with China President Xi Jingping in Port of Spain on 2 June 2013. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2016/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona is snapped before a meeting with China President Xi Jingping in Port of Spain on 2 June 2013.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2016/Wired868)

Fixin’ T&T has insisted that Carmona should answer the questions aimed at the President’s House or resign to preserve the sanctity of his office.

“Fixin’ T&T insists that President Carmona comprehensively and satisfactorily answer all questions on the numerous issues surrounding the Office of the President and President’s House… Or resign.

“We have been unable to find anywhere in our history that the Office of the President was cited by the Auditor General. In our view, President Carmona has long lost all moral, ethical and other authority to speak to issues of governance.

“Further, our Constitution must be urgently amended to protect that Office and by extension the people of Trinidad and Tobago from the unbridled hubris we presently endure.”

Fixin’ T&T questions to President Carmona:

“Has your mother-in-law ever been employed by President’s House or the Office of the President? If yes:

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (left) and his wife Reema Harrysingh-Carmona (centre) arrive in Buenos Aires for an international friendly between Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina in June 2014. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA)
Photo: President Anthony Carmona (left) and his wife Reema Harrysingh-Carmona (centre) arrive in Buenos Aires for an international friendly between Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina in June 2014.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA)

“In what capacity? At what remuneration? What was the date of her employment? Is she still employed there? Has she ever travelled abroad with your family?

“If yes to question five, how were her airfare and accommodation paid?”

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  1. Yuh hear London name mentioning around lately. I wonder why n for what position? And y not after all this is pnm country

  2. From Sir Ellis to this…
    The degeneration of a nation.

  3. Most definitely. Two years ago I said this but no one took me seriously. I am familiar with her and she is really a good person who is devoted to her grandchildren. However, I am sure Michelle Obama’s mother is not on the payroll of the White House.

  4. Because ‘white collar’ crime belongs to the ‘elite’ (not saying that is the case here, mind u-just generally speaking). Money can actually buy u ‘class’ in TnT-or get u close enough to it that most ppl can’t tell the difference lol. What I don’t understand, we emulate the US so much, why can’t we emulate the positive? Nobody is above the law-remember Watergate?

  5. OK so what is the procedure to remove this imps from office? That’s all I want to know because I don’t want another cent of my taxes paying this crass, entitled, pedantic phony!

    • The constitution, as it is, makes it nearly impossible to remove him. Is it true that his background check showed that his appointment would be questionable, as I read? And some information that was known, or should have been known to the then Opposition, should have made them object to the appointment. Did they? We follow the Westminster system, from the days when one did not have to articulate what having integrity means lol.

    • Nerisha I think you may be right about the background check thing. The good thing is even if they can’t remove him easily I believe he only has a year left. Seems like an eternity though. We could try to ignore him till then. I just wish all that free money was going to someone more deserving.

    • To be honest, given the weight of that office, I would be very concerned about it. And the country has been doing a good job of ignoring him. But we did not send pre-action protocol letter to a comedienne etc lol…

    • We need less government agencies not more. Most are a drain on the treasury. Scrap the Integrity Commission. They offer far less than the media. And that’s saying something!
      When there are allegations about people in public office, just send them straight to civil court and done.
      Scrap the Office of the President. Just wheel out Brian Lara, Dwight Yorke, Wendy Fitzwilliam, Ato Boldon, David Rudder or Shaka Hislop to greet foreign dignitaries! Lol.
      We will come off cheaper sending a first class ticket for Michael Samuel to come knock glasses with the China president on his next visit.
      What you say Rhoda Bharath? 🙂

    • Lasana Liburd…wonder if we can find out what official functions were hosted by the President in the past year?

      And re: integrity commission, you know I say we on a slippery slope when ppl have to tell you if you acted with integrity or not. An oxymoron if ever I heard one. If you acted with integrity, there would be no question in anyone’s mind. Need I remind you of a tape with the AG when I raised that question? Lol. The standard seems to be a legal one rather than a moral one, hence nobody is ever found guilty of breaching the act. So, agreed, just send to Fraud Squad and done.

    • Good ideas Lasana. You know I never realized how useless the president is until he started meddling in affairs that are outside of his remit during recent state visits. We can scrap the integrity commission for sure. We just need to devise a methodology for selecting independent senators. How independent are they really anyway when we have people like Dyanasar Mahabir.

  6. These people are getting angry when called to account so then why are they appealing to the criminal network to lay down their arms ?

  7. Ah go ded.But look at thing,ent ? If I going away ,I fraid Customs,the most I will do is a little bottle hide away with mother-in-law inside.

  8. i truly trusted him, but he is coming out of the CLOSET now, dis is trubble

  9. He is paid tax free like judges right ? Then he better answer his employers .

  10. its a family affair, with all and sundry

  11. You understand why he was chosen as President of T&, squandermania and corruption similar habits of the PP government. If he is so upright why afraid to respond to questions. Does the Freedom of Information Act exempt him from transparency. if this is so close this loophole AG. When the creators of the Constitution and other ACTS were created, they knew what was morality, integrity and ethics. These words are non-existent for present day politicians and holders of high office. Today the country is awash with whit collar bandits and criminals in jacket and tie and suits (women) . Time for him the step down. Go nah, Go!

  12. Dianne Joseph, unfortunately your post is too true. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say tomorrow, but I will read about it.

  13. The powers that you think I don’t have…. I just remembered some words of an old poetry from primary school days and that’s from a looooong time ago….”I am monarch of all I survey, my rights there’s NONE to dispute”…. Am leaving it at that…

  14. I dont know,but i heard he collects 28000 a month on some house why so much money on crooks million on wine from ITALIA,is this the powers he has how long we the citizens have too suffer i dont benifit from any of this kamala dont sign facta AMERICA dont make joke Trinidad citizens will suffer again people in this country taking this thing lightly another country would of come down on kamala already to sign i realise the opposition has something to hide i dont care i never beniftted any wealth from this country i want september 30th to come and she dont sign it we will get blacklisted from America how i cant hear from fixing tnt doma Gregory aboud how nobody advising kamala to sign and let peace reign.

  15. Are we witnessing a constitutional crisis brewing before our very eyes

  16. The man constantly and consistently harassing the soul of the Nation.

  17. We might need something harder or higher than popcorn for the current nonsense.

  18. if carmona’s wife is related to former PM kamla then his mother in law is kamla’s family also ..its a family thing no wonder the independent senators are so not independent

  19. So if they now find out, was it a secret employment???

  20. Scotty Ranking

    Given the serious nature of the implications of alleged impropriety in such high office, would it not have been more prudent for El Presidente to release a separate statement concerning the wine bottles et al? instead we have the highest officer of the land using a Republic Day speech to throw shade on on persons who have, quite justly, used their right as a citizen to ask questions about tax dollars being spent?
    Looks like someone couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a swipe, via the same media that ‘denigrated’ him, at the so-called armchair journalists? In a speech that has a lot more exposure and long-lasting ramifications than a Facebook Live video could muster.
    I know long ago he used to sing calypso under the sobriquet Lord Pussyfoot but from his recent performances Prince Petty is more ideal.

  21. Section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act, needs to be repealed, before the next sitting President takes office. We’re a democratic state, not an autocratic, or communist one. The President is not above the law, nor should he be exempt from transparency, and accountability, especially when it pertains to state funds. The fact that he thinks he has a right to do whatever he wishes, and we the public, needs to mind our own business, is grossly disrespectful, of not just the office, but, the people as well. If this continues to be the stance of the President of Trinidad and Tobago, he needs to resign. All those who’re going to inject with ignorance, saying the President of the US of A is also exempt, that, by far, is far from the truth. They, unlike our President, is not tax exempt. In fact their taxes are combed through by the IRIS for decades, before and after their tenure. The Office of The President is Audited, every single year, to ensure there is no mismanagement of state funds. The President, can be impeached at anytime, during their tenure, to answer to the public, of misbehavior in Public Office. So who is Anthony Carmona???

    • Noted,however,this sitting President only spit fire and have issues when the inner circle is the subject of public query .

    • The POTUS and our Powers are two different kettles of fish. POTUS is and elected office, the highest in the USA. In TT, the position of President is mostly ceremonial and a rubber stamp. We cannot speak of them in the same breath (even if they elect Trump).

    • Judy-ann Stewart the Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago is the highest office of the land. Though it’s not a post one is elected to, it doesn’t mean one is above the law. It’s not that the President of Trinidad and Tobago, cannot be made to account, the process is archaic, and troubling, as there are only two reasons a committee can be convened. Then it has to go through committees, before reaching Parliament, and when it gets there, there has to be a 2/3 majority, or both sides of the house, to open an investigation.

    • You mistake me. As far as I am concerned no one is above the law, least of all someone appointed to a position. While the President is ‘the highest office in the land’, he has no powers, whatever the holder may say. My post, after Learie’s, was merely to emphasise that one has all the power in the world and the other,none. You are preaching to the choir! 🙂

  22. What about too much presidential overreach by him have meeting with the national security minister… That man is a fraud of the highest order.

  23. All of us can have a tall glass of “Kiss-my-ass” courtesy the President ! LOL

  24. Who cares he have been the president for yrs now why only now this question being ask pnm all yuh leave d dam man alone

  25. If mother in law in town like he try an Obama but they know that the USA will never condone that. Tom ass all but told us wine to the side he and his pardner the travelling Archie just rubbing contempt and disdain in our faces then we have Kamla and her gang turning Parliament into a bar room brawl. What have we done as a people to deserve this

    • You ask the question rhetorically but perhaps you should not. One of the things we have done surely is go cast our ballots and then go back home intending to come back out and participate in the politics in another five years.

      Maybe you haven’t noticed but social media – and Wired868, I venture to say – are changing that.

  26. Everyone reading this article wants to comment but we thinking about the possibility of repercussions.HMMNN.

  27. He is the president what he feel it is so no one can question his spending but what really takin place boi

  28. This man feel he “BIGGER” THAN GOD. Go right ahead yuh day comin…..

  29. here we go again. Why these people don’t learn? #dotherightthing

  30. According to this quenk public office is private business.

  31. Is the salary being paid $35,000.00

  32. Didn’t the man tell all yuh meddling kids on Republic day is not all yuh place tuh be questioning him?
    Only serious TV personalities like Holly Betaudier and other departed journalists are qualified to put questions to him!

  33. This man has proven to be the biggest disgrace to the President’s Office, and by extension the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Thought it couldn’t have gotten worse than Max Richards. Rather than clearing the air , refusing to answer only makes him look more suspicious in the eyes of sensible and right thinking persons. More importantly if this law( being practically exonerated from any kind of accountability) is not changed asap it would prove to me that this Government ( and any other government who does not address this..along with judges not needing to declare their assets) is complicit in protecting crooks and croonies aka a lot of the the so called elite in this country. If we are to be taken seriously as a proper independent nation then this is the ONLY way forward!!! But pardon my cynicism, I know we are in Banistan and it’s not gonna be happening any time soon. Such is the faith I have in any of our current parliamentarians ( so called leaders) to do the right thing…BIG STEUPS!!!

  34. Popcorn out… This man really going to try to ride this one out?

  35. “There is simply too much journalistic overreach going on today. There are some journalists and I repeat some, who denigrate without evidential basis, engaged in armchair journalism who hear something by the ways and it becomes reliable news.”

    The ODE says that “denigrate” comes from the Latin denigrare, meaning “to blacken, to make dark.” Sure it’s a perfectly good word but it simply is not one that I, given my heritage and history, would ever even countenance using.

    I suppose Powers comes from different stock with a completely different heritage and history. Maybe to judge by his tastes in wine, he is of Italian descent .

  36. De man go drink out all de wine before monday

  37. Shhhhhhhhhhhh, doh say dat,………..he go vex!!