UNC to question PM on SSA in Parliament

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal – Photo courtesy Parliament

THE Opposition UNC plans to interrogate the Prime Minister about Government’s decision to review operations at the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) in the House of Representatives on March 6.

UNC deputy political leader and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal gave this commitment on March 4.

Last Friday the House held its first sitting for March, and it will sit on Wednesday from 1.30 pm. According to its standing orders, Prime Minister’s Questions are held at the second sitting of the House each month.

A statement on March 3 from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said, “The National Security Council (NSC) has recommended to the Cabinet that the head of the SSA be replaced immediately and that new leadership and management be installed with despatch.”

Dr Rowley is the chairman of the NSC and head of the Cabinet.

The OPM added, “This recommendation has been effected and as of Saturday March 2 the head of the SSA has been sent on administrative leave.”

The SSA director is Major Roger Best. He was appointed in July 2019 on a three-year contract.

TT’s Ambassador to Washington, DC, Brig-Gen Anthony Phillips-Spencer, was recalled on March 2 and appointed acting SSA director by President Christine Kangaloo .

The OPM said Phillips-Spencer is initiating an extensive review and audit of all personnel, equipment and processes in the SSA.

The OPM gave no further details in its statement.

In a comment via WhatsApp, Moonilal said, “The Prime Minister can expect to be peppered in the House on Wednesday on this dangerous and diabolical development.”

He added, “This begs several questions.”

Moonilal, the opposition’s shadow national security minister, said these questions included: at what Cabinet meeting was a review of the SSA discussed; did the police execute a search warrant at the SSA’s offices at Knowsley Building in Port of Spain; and whether the police seized any files, documents or technology, or were just guarding the premises.

On Sunday, there was a police presence outside Knowsley. An officer on duty did not comment about the nature of their activity there.

Moonilal said, “There are very serious and diabolical circumstances arising here.

“The Prime Minister as the head of the political directorate has removed the head of a national spying agency that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and we need to know exactly what is the reason.”

While it is in Cabinet’s purview to appoint or remove the SSA director as it sees fit, Moonilal said, “They must give reasons as to why Mr Best was removed in such dramatic and sudden circumstances.”

There is also the possibility of the Opposition putting an urgent question on Best’s removal to National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on Wednesday.

In a subsequent statement, Moonilal claimed the move was “designed to manipulate this critical intelligence agency.

“The disturbing events are taking place in a general election season and in light of the government’s known penchant for targeting political opponents.”

The next general election is constitutionally due in 2025.