PM: Charles mischievous to say SSA political

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

THE Prime Minister accused Naparima MP Rodney Charles of mischief in alleging that the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) was politically influenced.

He spoke in an exchange during prime minister’s questions in the House of Representatives on Monday.

It began when Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked Dr Rowley if cellphone jammers and grabbers were working to block calls by inmates inside prisons who were using illegal cellphones.

This followed a briefing held by Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds last week Tuesday, where Prisons Commissioner Deopersad Ramoutar appealed to the public not to try and have cellphones smuggled into prisons. He said these phones are used by inmates to order hits on individuals on the outside.

Asked about jammers and grabbers to block such illegal communication, Ramoutar said he had never seen any, with Hinds chiming in to say these were handled by the SSA and not prison officers.

Rowley told Indarsingh in the House that this was a matter of national security, adding he sensed a trend in this question following an Opposition MP recently asking where CCTV cameras that were not functioning, were located.

The PM replied, “Answering that as asked, Madam Speaker, is simply to assist criminals.”

Asked about the SSA and not the prison service controlling the jammers and grabbers, he said to protect the system and allow it to function, these devices were under the control of another arm of the State, and there was no discomfort about that.

Charles asked if the SSA was politically controlled.

Rowley asked, “You have determined that the SSA is politically motivated? Your mischief knows no bounds!”

Charles said the SSA was not part of the Public Service and its staff was appointed by Cabinet.

“So what?” retorted Rowley.

He asked if the SSA was political when its head had been appointed under the former People’s Partnership government, to which Hinds mumbled aloud, “Reshmi.”

This was a reference to the former People’s Partnership government appointing Reshmi Ramnarine, a then 31-year-old junior public servant, to head the SSA in 2011, prompting public disquiet. Ramnarine soon resigned.

Later in the sitting, Hinds said firearm users (employees’) certificates were now being issued by the police, replying to a question from Caroni Central MP Arnold Ram.

“The review of applications for and the grant of firearm users (employees) certificates by the TT Police Service has resumed.”

Ram asked if any FULs (firearm user’s licences) had been issued, but Hinds said he did not understand the question.

Ram asked if any FULs were issued under Mc Donald Jacob’s tenure as acting Commissioner of Police.

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George said, “Member, is your question about firearms licences? So that does not arise under the question asked and answered.”