Trinidad Prime Minister to take legal action against opposition legislator

CMC:  

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley is to take legal action against opposition legislator, Dr. Roodal Moonilal over statements he made linking him to a “beneficiary bank account” in the United States, his lawyer Michael Quamina said Wednesday.

Moonilal said he maintains his position despite the threat of legal action, saying “I am standing by what I said on the Hansard record”.

Rowley has already described as a “monster lie’ and a heinous crime” the statements made by Moonilal in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament on Tuesday during the debate on the 2018-19 national budget.

Speaking at a news conference, Quamina said that while the original statements made by Moonilal in the Parliament were protected by parliamentary privilege, a Facebook posting on the opposition legislator’s social media page, opened the way for the legal action to be taken.

He said that Moonilal by his activities “after the sitting (of Parliament) last night, led to a repetition of the defamatory statements.

“One such action is that he has shared this on Facebook media, which post clearly says this is the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago’s parliamentary democracy that the primary ministers of government including the prime minister declined to participate in a budget debate….This comes amid major allegations levelled by the opposition and in particular documentary evidence by Dr. Moonilal of gross financial wrongdoing by the Prime Minister.

“Dr. Rowley, his Attorney General, National Security Minister and Leader of the House have not responded to the allegations of corruption linked to the already damaging PETROTRIN…issue. That was posted by Dr. Moonilal. That without a question is Dr. Moonilal confirming what he said in the parliament and in the circumstances it is our intention to launch an action in relation to Dr. Moonilal with respect to these statements.

“I will also be having a careful look at the interviews which Dr. Moonilal has conducted during the course of the day and adding to that claim,” said Quamina, flanked by Prime Minister Rowley.

He said legal action would also be taken against persons, particular paid bloggers “who choose to comment adversely in relation to my client.

‘They are not protected by parliamentary privilege,” he added.

Prime Minister Rowley said he had no “banking relationship” in the United States and described Moonilal’s statements as a ‘fabrication” and blamed also the main opposition United national Congress (UNC) of seeking to “tie me in my capacity Member of Parliament and Prime Minister with the issues relating to a private company”.

Rowley said he had instructed the Commissioner of Police to launch a probe into the allegations as well as the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and that the Attorney General Faris Al Rawi to use the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to communicate with the authorities in the United States on the matter.

He said the investigations from all parties should be made public.

Moonilal, who maintained his position even after Rowley’s news conference, told legislators on Tuesday that he had travelled to Miami on several occasions as he investigated the issue and that his information had “pointed me to a bank in Florida, C and C International Trading Regents Bank.”

Moonilal said the bank has documents calling for additional attention, addressed to two people, one Vidia Deokiesingh and a second name he could not call in Parliament.

Moonilal said a bank document before him had the names of Deokiesingh and another person who could not be named in Parliament.

“I have a couple more points to make so I’ll just indicate according to your ruling, I’ll just indicate that the two names I have here, additional attention, “V.I.D.Y.A. D.E.O.K.I.E.S.I.N.G.H and the second name K.E.I.T.H R.O.W.L.E.Y,” Moonilal said after he was first cautioned by the Speaker and challenged by government legislators.

But Rowley told reporters that over the years he has been doing “whatever I have to do to lead a government based on morality in public affairs and over the decades conducted myself in a manner …as to prevent malicious persons making allegations that are untrue”.