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AG’s Cambridge Analytica probe is “misuse of power;” UNC insists TTPS and not JSC should investigate

“We support an investigation by the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Integrity Commission, who are the appropriate persons to conduct investigations into allegations of breaches of the law. They are charged with the legal authority and responsibility for conducting fair and transparent investigations that can result in exoneration or prosecution.

“[…] We state categorically that the JSC on National Security is not the appropriate body to examine this matter. Joint Select Committees (JSCs) of the Parliament are a creation of the Constitution. […] The Attorney General is sacrificing the public interest and undermining the rule of law by attempting to misuse the powers of JSC to persecute private individuals in the public domain in an apparent political witch-hunt and fishing expedition.”

The following media release on the PNM Government’s proposed Cambridge Analytica probe was submitted by the United National Congress’ Public Relations Officer, Senator Anita Haynes:

Photo: Former prime minister and current Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Courtesy Caricom.com)

The Government’s move to refer the Cambridge Analytica matter to National Security JSC is nothing more than a political witch-hunt, and the United National Congress will not subject itself to the Attorney General’s political “pappyshow”. The UNC issued a statement today, noting that the Attorney General is intent on wasting State resources and time in his continued quest to politicise all arms of Government.

This is yet another attempt by the Rowley PNM to name and shame members of the former administration based on faulty evidence and by making wild and reckless statements in the public domain, as was done with Emailgate.

The UNC is on the public record as having welcomed a lawful, independent and transparent investigation by the competent lawful authorities into the alleged activities of Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ and the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group and their affiliated companies in Trinidad and Tobago.

We support an investigation by the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Integrity Commission, who are the appropriate persons to conduct investigations into allegations of breaches of the law. They are charged with the legal authority and responsibility for conducting fair and transparent investigations that can result in exoneration or prosecution.

Photo: Former Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower, Christopher Wylie.

The party repeats its statement that it had no involvement, contract or dealings with Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ, or the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group or their affiliates for the purpose of data mining, as has been alleged.

Statements and documents in the public domain indicate that the Congress of the People (COP) retained the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group in late 2013 and the COP has denied any allegation of wrongdoing.

We state categorically that the JSC on National Security is not the appropriate body to examine this matter. Joint Select Committees (JSCs) of the Parliament are a creation of the Constitution. They are created to provide independent mechanisms to ensure that the actions of State entities are transparent, accountable and in accord with the highest standards of good governance.

Joint Select Committees are set up to monitor and provide oversight of State entities and not political parties. As such, the UNC is gravely concerned that, in his zeal to score cheap political points and blatant misunderstanding of the law, the Attorney General is sacrificing the public interest and undermining the rule of law by attempting to misuse the powers of JSC to persecute private individuals in the public domain in an apparent political witch-hunt and fishing expedition.

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

We do not know how far this will reach; it could open the floodgates for Parliamentary JSCs to be abused and misused to haul any person before a JSC to be questioned on any matter at the whim of the Attorney General. Further, placing this matter before a JSC can prejudice and compromise and put any resulting prosecution in jeopardy.

The very composition of the membership and chairmanship of the present JSC on National Security, being chaired by a PNM Cabinet Member MP [Fitzgerald] Hinds, taints the deliberations of the Committee. Clearly, a Government-led, Government-controlled Committee cannot carry out an independent and fair investigation into such allegations. As such, the UNC will not subject itself to such a forum.

The UNC is disheartened that the Rowley Government is choosing to go down this path when there are critical issues in national security that should be addressed in this JSC.

January 2018 saw the bloodiest month in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. With murders headed towards 600 for this year, if the Government continues to push its agenda, the JSC on National Security will waste millions of dollars running down unsubstantiated statements made in newspapers articles as happened when Keith Rowley brought fake emails to Parliament.

Once again, the Keith Rowley administration is desperately trying to deflect from his lack of leadership and competence in his two and a half years in office. He has resorted to trying to distract the country from the real threats facing the people, which are his impotence on dealing with crime, the ferry scandal, serious allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct levelled against members of this Government.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II during the CHOGM closing session in London in April 2018.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

People have lost confidence in the Rowley Government’s ability to govern our nation and we’ve lost all hope in its ability to contain and resolve the spiralling crime menace.

The United National Congress wishes to make it abundantly clear that we are in favour of a thorough and complete investigation by the independent offices of the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. We will not, however, participate in a political pappyshow. We are confident that the allegations are malicious and baseless.

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