Griffith on Best’s SSA removal: ‘It is a witch hunt’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Transformation Alliance leader Gary Griffith, a former police commissioner, at a public meeting at the NTA office, Flament Street, Port of Spain on April 24. – AYANNA KINSALE

Former commissioner of police (CoP) Gary Griffith says the decision to fire Major Roger Best as director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) is part of a witch hunt by the Government to remove people who do not do their bidding.

Best, who was sent on administrative leave in early March, was arrested on May 16 along with pastor Ian Brown, a former special reserve officer assigned to the SSA, former security supervisor Portell Griffith and Sgt Sherwin Waldron, formerly assigned to the Special Operations Response Team.

The group was arrested after a two-and-a-half-month-long investigation into a wide range of allegations against SSA agents and were questioned on the transfer of weapons from the police to the SSA.

Best faces a possible charge of possession of an automatic rifle – an MP5K Heckler and Koch automatic submachine gun, in contravention of the Firearm Act – and possibly misbehaviour in public office for transferring two Sig Sauer MPX guns and two Sig Sauer 516 rifles.

Police also searched the homes of Best and the others for electronic devices for interrogation by the police service’s cyber and social media unit of any communications data and stored data.

Best was fired on May 18, while still in police custody, by acting President Nigel de Freitas, on the advice of the Cabinet.

In a video released on social media, Griffith, political leader of the National Transformation Alliance, alleged both he and Best were harassed by “a very senior government minister” to allow a certain police officer to have “full control and accessibility to all of the intercept equipment in Trinidad and Tobago.

“He tried it with both myself and with Roger Best and we both flatly told him that this was unacceptable and we would not do it.”

Griffith noted Best had been released and asked on what basis the Cabinet had fired him.

“He has not been charged. But you rush to the President. So it is either you have inside information that the police told you, ‘Don’t worry, we would get him arrested or get him charged,’ or it is that you just don’t care?”

He said Best is now facing the same “victimisation, witch hunting and fishing expedition” he faced.

“What has Roger Best done wrong? What was the problem?

“Police officers assigned to the SSA in the performance of their duties could have signed for weapons belonging to the police service. So there was nothing that those police officers would have done in an illegal manner. The weapons never belonged to the SSA.”

Griffith was stripped of his post in 2021 after the Police Service Commission served him with a letter of suspension.

Prime Minister Dr Rowley later said supposed mishandling of firearms and ammunition under the police service while Griffith was in charge, along with questionable issuances of firearms user’s licences, triggered multiple investigations into the running of the police Firearms Unit.

Griffith has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.