UNC MPs request urgent JSC meeting on SSA

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UNC MPs request urgent JSC meeting on SSA

Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial and MP Roodal Moonilal have both requested that the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security hold an urgent meeting, to deal with the sudden removal of the director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), Major Roger Best.

A letter was sent to chairman Keith Scotland, requesting that the meeting be convened and all officials from the Ministry of National Security as well as the Police Commissioner be summoned to appear.

Moonilal, the MP for Oropouche East and Senator Lutchmedial said there were questions which needed to be answered regarding the “sudden and suspicious decision” to send the SSA boss on administrative leave and install an acting director in his stead.

Major Best was sent on administrative leave on March 2 and replaced by Brigadier General Anthony Phillips-Spencer, whose last appointment was that of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the T&T Embassy in Washington, DC. Dr Rowley said it followed a National Security Council (NSC) recommendation to Cabinet. Dr Rowley is the chairman of the NSC.

In the request to Scotland yesterday, Moonilal said, “We have taken note of the comments, statements and purported reasons for this sudden and apparently rash decision which are being fed to the public through the media in a piecemeal fashion.

“We are shocked and alarmed that this is the manner in which such a sensitive matter would be handled and in keeping with the mandate of the committee, it is our view that a thorough inquiry into the factors which led to this action being taken by the Cabinet be conducted.”

Both Moonilal and Lutchmedial agreed that the position in question is no ordinary management post in the public service.

“The office holder is vested with power to authorise the interception of private communications amongst citizens, which includes not only those who oppose the Government but members of the sitting Government themselves.

“The sudden removal of such an office holder because of some allegation of preferential hiring and the installation of a handpicked replacement who is ordered to conduct an “audit” leaves the average citizen unnerved and apprehensive about the Government’s wielding of power which interferes with enshrined constitutional rights or even its attempt to stymie ongoing inquiries and intelligence collection.”

Moonilal argued that this latest action was “just one in a series of actions which suggest that there may be attempts by the political directorate to exert influence and control over persons who hold the power to access private and sensitive information.”

He added, “We are of the view that it is critical for this committee to make expeditious enquiries into this matter and that no lesser person than the current Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds MP and former holder of that portfolio, Minister Stuart Young MP should appear and answer questions on this matter since during the tenure of Mr Best they would have exercised ministerial control.”