Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley. (FILE)
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PORT OF SPAIN – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley Tuesday vehemently condemned a statement by a former official of the Strategic Service Agency (SSA) who claimed that he had been given instructions by senior government ministers including the prime minister to dismiss all citizens of Indian descent from the security agency.
Rowley said that the statement made by Carlton Dennie, a former director of intelligence, on the platform of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) on Monday night, was “an outright lie” and designed also to sow the seed of racial hatred and tension in the twin island republic, where the majority of the 1.3 million population are mainly Afro and Indo-Trinidadians.
He accused Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar of fermenting racial tension in the country in a bid to return to office following her defeat in the September 2015 general elections.
“When an officer who claims on a platform to be the head of the security agency, a major arm of the agency, and claims that he was instructed by me to take action against a body of citizens based on their race and for that he was fired for not carrying out those instructions, I think it warrants me convincing the population that there is evidence to prove that that person is dangerous, that statement is a lie and the person who put him on a platform is also dangerous to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley told the news conference.
Dennie told supporters that after the Rowley government had fired the “legitimate director of the SSA” in 2015, “I am the person they had asked to fire all the East Indians in the SSA and I told them no, I am not doing that.”
“I reminded Keith Rowley and the then Minister of National Security, (retired Brigadier Edmund) Dillon that in this country every creed and race must find an equal place. I told them no I am not firing the East Indian,” he told cheering supporters of the UNC.
But Rowley in further dismissing the allegations read from confidential reports of the SSA dating back to 2009, showing that Dennie had had various disciplinary problems, including “deliberately stating untruths”, and a recommendation “that this employee’s request for renewal of contract is not recommended”. Dennie was removed in 2016.
Rowley said that on becoming prime minister he never had any interaction with Dennie, telling reporters “he was never in a position to interface with the National Security Council or me as prime minister”.
“So the statement that he made on the UNC platform that I give him instructions to do anything is nothing but an unvarnished lie,” Rowley said, adding that the position Dennie held in the agency “was not a position that could have hired or fired anybody”.
“The only person who was in the agency in a position to recruit into the agency was the director or to have anyone dismissed would have been the director and therefore to go on a UNC platform and to say that he was asked to fire people was nothing but a foolish lie”.
Rowley told reporters that the danger about the statement made by Dennie is that Persad Bissessar, a former head of the national security council, had completely “disregard the effect Mr Dennie’s lie could have on the society of Trinidad and Tobago”.
He said the Opposition leader is desperate to return to office “and the only way she feels getting there is to carry on with this misconduct at the expense of the people of Trinidad and Tobago”.
“This latest development using Carlton Dennie to strike at the heart of our racial, ethnic and religious stability in this country is nothing but an attack on the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. (CMC)