Ragbir stands by decision to support whistleblower law

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Rai Ragbir – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

CUMUTO/MANZANILLA MP Dr Rai Ragbir’s vote in favour of the PNM’s Whistleblower Protection Bill in Parliament on June 21 has been met with stinging criticisms from many of his supporters and colleagues, but he remains unfazed.

“I wish to remind my party, as well as the nation, that the primary reason I voted in favour of this bill is the numerous concerns expressed by individuals regarding certain actions within the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC),” he said in a statement on June 25.

“Many people were afraid to report these matters to the police. I have no doubt that this legislation will benefit the people of Cumuto/Manzanilla and the entire country.”

The opposition MP vowed to give more information on this issue in the coming weeks.

He said he was aware councillors at the corporation were planning to lead demonstrations against him as a result of his vote. Ragbir added he would never condemn anyone for peacefully expressing dissent towards any elected official, as that is their constitutional right.

Ragbir broke ranks last week when he voted in favour of the whistleblower legislation while his UNC colleagues, including Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, voted against it.

Ragbir was one of five MPs who formed part of the United Patriots slate that contested seats in the June 15 internal elections. Mayaro MP Rushton led the slate, which also included Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally, Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes-Alleyne and Naparima MP Rodney Charles.

The Persad-Bissessar-endorsed Star Team defeated the United Patriots.

At the UNC’s cottage meeting on June 24 at the party’s headquarters in Chaguanas, Persad-Bissessar said Ragbir must be afforded due process in keeping with the party’s constitution.

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee also weighed in and denied Ragbir’s claim that the party had not discussed the bill.

Lee, who is also the UNC whip, instead said Ragbir had stopped attending opposition caucuses.

Ragbir said he categorically denied Lee’s and Dr Roodal Moonilal’s accusation of neglecting to attend parliamentary caucus meetings.

He also called on the whip to provide evidence.

Ragbir added, “It would be better for the party and the citizenry if these politically seasoned gentlemen stop misleading the population by suggesting that a fan club of ‘yes persons’ gathering in the opposition chamber room and casually old-talking mere minutes before a parliamentary session can be elevated to a parliamentary caucus.”

Ragbir reiterated that he stands by his vote, adding that he would always prioritise the best interests of those who elected him over those who thought only of themselves.

He noted what he called the tragic irony that his party’s disciplinary committee, which has long been defunct, has now seemingly sprung into action.

The MP said the action was not to address members charged with crimes or those facing serious allegations of corruption or human trafficking, but to deal with his vote on a bill meant to fight corruption.

“I will continue to pray for my party, the UNC, which I love, and hope it can find its way for the sake of TT,” he said.

On Ragbir’s latest statement, SGRC chairman Kenwyn Phillip told Newsday on June 25: “It is not the first time we have had these allegations against the corporation. If, for some reason, Ragbir has information about these allegations, he has never reached out to me as the chairman or sent any correspondent about what he has put out.”

“I want Ragbir to know that there are many channels he can take. He can go to the police if he has any evidence of wrongdoing. We have nothing of that sort at the corporation and I welcome any investigations.”

Phillip, who is also the councillor for Manzanilla/Fishing Pond, said the corporation is not involved in corrupt activities.

He said Ragbir is “just playing smart with foolishness.”