West: Government made best efforts to secure DPP office

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Allyson West –

PUBLIC Administration Minister Allyson West said every effort was made to provide the necessary security at the Park Court building in Port of Spain for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

In a statement on Monday, West said the Government took all reasonable steps to address the security concerns raised (by DPP Roger Gaspard, SC).

In a statement on November 10, West questioned Gaspard’s comments about security concerns being why his office did not occupy premises designated for it at Park Court.

She said work to meet the security requirements of the Office of the DPP was ongoing until the building’s landlord “called a halt to the requested work.”

West added that the landlord produced an engineering assessment, which stated that the building’s foundation was not designed to accommodate the additional works being requested.

This included the replacement of glass panels, which are a design feature of the building, with concrete block work.

West said, “On the basis of that assessment, the landlord declined to give permission for that work to proceed.”

She also commented on statements made last week by former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, that while Gaspard believed the building was suitable for his office, it could not be occupied without clearance from the Special Branch.

“The issue of a special branch report on the building was not requested until July 2020 during a site visit by the DPP of the already rented building, by which time the outfitting of the building was close to completion and the target occupation date was early September 2020.”

With respect to Maharaj’s statement that clearance by the Special Branch in these matters was a standard protocol during his tenure as AG, West said, “I have encountered no evidence of that alleged practice, nor have I come across any Cabinet Note relating to the rental of said buildings, in which such a practice has been referenced.”

West cited a Cabinet note dated June 27, 1997 (while Maharaj was AG) when the then UNC government sought approval to rent the Huggins Building on South Quay to house the Legal Affairs Ministry.

She said only technical reports from the Works and Transport Ministry, Planning and Development Ministry, Fire Service and Commissioner of Valuations were used to seek approval for the rental of that building.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was a minister in the Basdeo Panday cabinet at that time.

One of the portfolios she held in the Panday administration was that of legal affairs minister.