Head of security agency resigns
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The newly appointed head of the controversial Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) Reshmi Usha Ramnarine has resigned, claiming that her safety had been put in jeopardy after newspapers here published her photograph.
Ramnarine, a 31-year old communications technician, who was appointed to head the SIA that Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said had been illegally tapping the phones of prominent and ordinary citizens, tendered her resignation to National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy on Saturday.
A government spokesman said that it had been accepted..
The resignation came less than 24 hours after government ministers publicly backed her appointment during a debate in the Parliament on Friday night.
The government dismissed suggestions that she was not qualified for the post and insisted that she was a graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
They regarded her appointment as sending a message to young people that the new government would not hesitate in promoting young and qualified persons to important jobs in the country.
But Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley had threatened not to cooperate with the eight-month-old People’s Partnership coalition if the appointment was not rescinded.
“It is our view that we have to consider our relationship with this Government … this coalition of the mad, the incompetent. The PNM opposition will seriously consider whether we want to participate in any collaborative process with this Government on any matter as long as this woman remains in this position,” Rowley said.
Rowley expressed outrage on the appointment and posed a number of questions to Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, in particular, whether Ramnarine was the whistleblower who provided her (Persad-Bissessar) with information with respect to the SIA and whether her appointment was now a form of payback.
“Is there any truth in the allegations being made in some quarters that she (Ramnarine) may have used her position to obtain and share information in an unauthorised manner, with persons who are now holding senior advisory positions to the Prime Minister? Because if those allegations are true, we now know exactly what took place there.”
But speaking on a local radio on Saturday, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar dismissed Rowley’s concerns and said that he had remained quiet when the SIA had been spying illegally on people during the reign of the now opposition People’s National Movement (PNM).
She defended the appointment of Ramnarine saying that it had been confirmed by the National Security Council and the Cabinet.
Last October Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar told Parliament that the SIA had been illegal wire tapping the phones of several prominent people including President Richards as well as parliamentarians.
Ironically, she also announced publicly that the Director of the SIA, Nigel Clement had been fired.
News of Ramnarine’s appointment was first made public by the Express newspaper on Friday which quoted sources as saying that the appointment left a sour taste in the mouths of SIA personnel, since she lacks the educational background and expertise to run the agency which deals with intelligence gathering information and security issues with regards to the country.
“She has no training whatsoever in the field of security and intelligence,” the paper quoted one unidentified source as saying.
On Saturday, the newspaper reported that there were conflicting reports over Ramnarine’s qualifications and appointment with Sandy and the Acting Head of State naming different agencies to which she was appointed.
Sandy told legislators on Friday that following consultations with members of the National Security Council and Cabinet, Ramnarine, whom he described as being a University of the West Indies (UWI) graduate, was appointed as director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA).
However, a release from the Office of the President yesterday confirmed that she was appointed to the post of director of the SIA.
The Express newspaper said that in 2007, Ramnarine sent her CV to numerous media houses seeking employment.
“Among the objectives listed on her cover letter then was her intention to do a BSc in Geography and the Environment which was “carded to begin in September 2007”. At the time, Ramnarine listed herself as being employed on a three-year contract as a Technical Operator III at Research Associates of Trinidad and Tobago,” the paper said. (CMC)