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Suspended PNM member vows to clear his name

Published: 
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Long-standing PNM member Harry Ragoonanan during a press conference in Chaguanas on Sunday. At left is UNC activist Devant Maharaj. PICTURE COURTESY CNC3

A witch hunt.

That’s how suspended People’s National Movement (PNM) member Harry Ragoonanan described moves to have him face the party’s disciplinary committee to answer charges involving alleged corrupt practices and behaviours with respect to procurement of Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) buses.

His response came minutes after acting Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds, at a press conference, in Port-of-Spain yesterday said the PNM received information and a complaint from a citizen “about a most untoward conversation that was electronically recorded between Mr Ragoonanan and a bus supplier to the PTSC.”

Hinds said the PNM found that the contents of the recorded conversation to be “sufficiently troubling,” stating that if this matter “yields information that should gain the attention of other agencies in T&T, it most certainly will.”

“Higer is a firm that provides buses to PTSC out of China. This conversation was recorded on June 1, 2016. This most revealing and troubling conversation that was recorded raised serious issues for us in the PNM because, after all, Mr Ragoonanan is a senior party member and at the time held office as chairman of the Oropouche West constituency of the PNM,” Hinds said.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young, who also attended the conference, said when they talk about forensic work being done and recordings “they immediately start a conversation with a suggestion that it is the State apparatus for interception being used. I want to put this to bed before it starts.”

Young said the recording was done by an individual outside of T&T.

Like Hinds, Young, the recently-appointed National Security Minister, stated that the recording was “most troubling and suggestions of corrupt practices and behaviours with respect to procurement at PTSC was the content of that recorded conversation.”

Hinds said the contents of the electronic recording was raised at the PNM’s general council previously.

“The general council of the PNM took a decision that that complaint should be referred, in accordance with our party’s constitution, to the investigations committee of the PNM.”

Having been so referred, Hinds said the committee began its work where they arranged three meetings to which Ragoonanan was invited “so that his voice and position would be heard” in keeping with the principles of natural justice.

“He refused to show up on two occasions and on the third occasion did not show up but sent a legal representative. Left with little other choice and having heard his representative, the investigations committee continued its work and finalised its report and the matter moved in accordance with the party’s constitution to the disciplinary committee of the PNM which will hold a meeting on Thursday next.”

At this meeting, Hinds said Ragoonanan will be invited.

Ragoonanan said he was notified via the telephone yesterday that he had to appear before the committee chaired by Camille Robinson-Regis and team of PNMites on Thursday at 6 pm. He said he will attend with his attorney.

He said the PNM was on a “witch hunt,” and he has no idea what they were speaking about.

“I have no information about that tape. Where is the tape all this time? Months ago I asked them for a copy of the tape and they have not responded. They expect me to answer to it now.”

He said the PNM was trying to bring his name into disrepute because of what he has been revealing about the seabridge fiasco.

Ragoonanan said on the last hearing he sent his attorney but the committee refused his representation.

“I will attend and clear my name with my attorney. If they don’t want my attorney present, I will not attend.”

Hinds said he had to suffer the agony of seeing Ragoonanan joining with UNC activist Devant Maharaj and attorney Nyree Alfonso on Sunday, each of them speaking as a marine expert into the purchase of two new Coast Guard vessels from Austal.

Hinds said legal action will also be initiated against Alfonso shortly.

Young also revealed that Government has commenced legal action against Intercontinental Shipping “for what they did in relation to the Super Fast Galicia.” Young said the Government had sued for “$8 to $10 million in damages against Intercontinental Shipping.”

He also dismissed claims that the deal had been signed for two new vessels from the Coast Guard costing US$35m each. Young said those claims were premature.

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