Scandalous emails are fake, says Trinidad and Tobago government

It amounts to misleading the house and may even   amount to a contempt of parliament,” was the response of the People’s   Partnership government to opposition leader Keith Rowley’s claims that the   government was plotting criminal activities in high office.
 
  Rowley made the claim during the debate last Monday on a no-confidence motion   he brought against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her cabinet.
 
  The government of Trinidad and Tobago has denied any involvement in email   exchanges produced by Rowley purporting to show that the prime minister;   attorney general Anand Ramlogan; works and infrastructure and local government   minister Suruj Rambachan; and the national security advisor Captain Gary   Griffith were conspiring to bug the office of the Director of Public   Prosecutions (DPP), to cause grievous bodily harm to journalist Denyse Renne   and to bribe the DPP into accepting an offer of being appointed a judge.
 
  A statement from the government said: “The People’s Partnership government   categorically refutes any authorship in the series of printouts of alleged   electronic mails between members of the government during a period of   September 2012. The content of the print-outs as read into the Parliamentary   debate this afternoon (Monday 20, 2013) would be inadmissible under any   general rule of evidence and we challenge the leader of the opposition to   authenticate these messages.”
 
  The government also challenged the opposition leader to repeat his   allegations outside the Parliament chamber, without the protection of the   cloak of the house.
 
  “The people of Trinidad and Tobago should take note that in this era of   technology, it is easy to forge e-mail accounts, or to create accounts that   are either very similar or appears to be an authentic existing email,” noted   the release.
 
  Local IT experts have argued that the opposition leader would fare better if   he can provide electronic proof of his claims so the country can be satisfied   that his presentation was true.
 
  On the basis of this expert advice, the government release said, “If a series   of print outs, without any well-established electronic verification process,   is the foundation of the leader of the opposition’s no confidence motion in   the government; then the motion is being built on nothing more than a   fictitious and fabricated paper foundation and adds nothing to the   development of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
 
  The government further asked the public and the media to note the comments by   the Speaker of the House Wade Mark during the debate, when he said that   members must take ownership and full responsibility for the content of all   emails being read into the Hansard of the house.
 
  “We note too that it points to a significant criminal act to have either   concocted the emails or to have knowingly relied on such a malicious   fabrication. That is indeed a matter that we would seek to investigate,” the   statement said.
 
  The same day of the debate (Monday, May 20), Persad-Bissessar wrote a letter   to Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams to investigate the claims   made by the opposition leader.
 
  “The correspondence, purporting to be email exchanges between government office   holders, alleges serious criminal conduct. I hereby request that you cause an   investigation into these very serious allegations and ascertain the   authenticity of those emails and take such action as is required according to   the laws of Trinidad and Tobago,” Persad-Bissessar said.
 
  After studying the content of the emails, attorney general Ramlogan shared   with the media a number of discrepancies he found.
 
  There were questionable dates and at least one invalid email address:   anan@gmail.com, which the attorney general explained is not allowed by Google   as a six-character address is required to set up a gmail account.
 
  “We’ve discovered that short usernames at popular domains receive   significantly more spam since they’re easy to automatically generate. Gmail’s   requirement that all user names be at least six characters in length is meant   to keep spam out of your inbox. Dots or periods don’t count as characters   when creating your username,” Ramlogan explained.
 
  This reporter sent an email to the address (anan@gmail.com) with the message   bouncing back almost immediately, showing the address as nonexistent.
 
  Messages purportedly sent from two email addresses — anan@gmail.com and   anand@tstt.net.tt — simultaneously to kamlapb1@gmail.com were impossible,   noted the attorney general, arguing that the computer would not have   recognized the command and such a message could not have been sent.
 
  Written in one of the emails is the date: Wed 11 Sept, 2012 which Ramlogan   pointed out as wrong. The AG said September 11, 2012 was a Tuesday. This was   just an example of several inaccurate dates in the batch of emails. Another   instance is the date 9/06/12 – appearing in what the attorney general said is   a wrong format and can be seen in several of the thirty-one email messages read   out by opposition leader Rowley. It should have read: Thurs, 6 Sept, 2012.
 
  Following presentations by other government ministers on the motion, Rowley   gave his rebuttal, arguing that email messages can be sent simultaneously   when two of the same addresses are placed in the “From” section of the email   template.
 
  The opposition leader, who admitted to not being tech savvy, apparently did   not realize that instead, a message can be sent to two or more email   addresses but a message cannot be sent from several email addresses to the   receiver.
 
  Rowley nevertheless asked: “Suppose the contents of one or two is true?   Suppose one of them is right?”
 
  This comment inflamed the government further and as Persad-Bissessar rose to   rebut the opposition leader’s claims, Rowley and the rest of the members of   the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) walked out on the prime   minister.
 
  To desk thumping and laughter on the government side, the prime minister said   she did not know that people were so frightened to hear her speak.
 
  Later, the opposition leader explained that the prime minister did not   participate in the debate and was allowed by house speaker Wade Mark to wrap   up the no-confidence motion debate in spite of her non participation in the   session.
 
  The house speaker made the ruling in accordance with Parliament’s standing   order section 34.2, which the prime minister claimed gave her the right to   have the final say in the non-confidence debate.
 
  In her rebuttal, the prime minister chided Rowley on one of the errors found   in the email exchanges he read out. An email address that ended with .con as   oppose to .com, which the prime minister said is used for the purpose of   games.
 
  “And this is what he came here to do, Mr Speaker, to play games; to con this   house into believing his games on the email claims,” asserted   Persad-Bissessar.
 
  One of the main triggers of the no-confidence debate motion was the section   34 issue and what appeared to be a supposed conspiratorial effort by   government officials not to allow the matter to flare up in the public   domain.
 
  The opposition leader said the prime minister did not respond to former   President George Maxwell Richards’s concerns about section 34.
 
  Persad-Bissessar told the house in the absence of the opposition leader and his   team that she did not respond to two of the president’s letters; but she will   not divulge confidential communication between the office of the Prime   Minister and the office of the President.
 
  Persad Bissessar disagreed with Rowley’s assertion that the Trinidad and   Tobago police are not equipped to investigate the e-mail exchanges. The prime   minister said, while the opposition leader attacked the government for   undermining state institutions, he (Rowley) launched an unfair attack on the   police.
 
  Persad-Bissessar reckoned that Rowley should have taken the batch of e-mails   to the police to be immediately investigated and questioned why he waited six   months since, as he claimed, the details of the exchanges contained criminal   allegations.
 
  Rowley said he took it to the president at the time, who had the authority to   take the matter to the Integrity Commission, which in turn had the authority   to have the matter investigated.
 
  The prime minister and the attorney general disagreed with the opposition   leader’s position.
 
  Rowley wants an international body to investigate the e-mail content. The   prime minister said she has no problems with that either.
 
  At the end of her presentation, Persad-Bissessar asked the house to reject   the motion. All 26 government members present voted against the motion. There   were no abstentions. Persad Bissessar then asked speaker Mark to have the   opposition leader be taken before the Privileges Committee.
 
  In accordance with the provision of standing order 27(2), the prime minister   sought leave to raise the matter as a question of privilege.
 
  Reading from the Hansard records, Persad-Bissessar made a case that the   opposition leader misled the house by making statements he knew were false.   She further asked for Rowley to be censured for abusing the privilege of free   speech afforded in the Parliament.
 
  Mark said he had to determine if there is a reasonable case to be answered.   He had a prima facie case made out and ruled that opposition leader Keith   Rowley will have to go before the Privileges Committee.
 
  In making her case, the prime minister said: “Mr. Speaker, an examination of   the documents reveal that they contains numerous obvious errors,   inconsistencies and major discrepancies which suggest that it is a wholly   sham document, created for the sole purpose of causing mischief and to   maliciously lay false accusations against members of the government. It   plainly suggests, Mr Speaker, that there was a clear intention to mislead   this honourable house.
 
  “I therefore submit that the leader of the opposition committed contempt of   this house on the following grounds:
 
  “1. He deliberately and willfully misled this house
 
  “2. He recklessly abused the privilege of freedom of speech in this house   thereby bringing this house into public ridicule and odium.
 
  “In respect of the first ground, Mr. Speaker, it is my considered opinion   that the leader of the opposition knew that the document from which he quoted   was a mere fabrication or, at the very least, he ought to have known that it   was false since this was plainly obvious from the face of the document.”
 
  Rowley faces possible suspension and expulsion among other sanctions when he   goes before the disciplinary committee.
 
  Having walked out of the parliament chamber in protest against the prime   minister wrapping up the debate, the opposition members did not return to   vote on their own motion.
 
  The prime minister criticized the leadership of the opposition leader   (Rowley) for not voting on a motion he brought to the house for debate. She   questioned his desire to become prime minister in the face of what she sees   as his irresponsible behaviour.
 
  Rowley explained why he walked out on the prime minister, but he is yet to   explain why he and his team did not return to the house to vote on their own   motion.

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