11 Apr 2011

Screwing the public

Playing with words is always a trick politicians play. Take for example the case of Gladys Gafoor, retired judge. She collected for years, a chauffeur's allowance paid to her dead husband. She actually collected and cashed cheques made out to her husband, long deceased.

Then, at some sort of enquiry regarding the legality of the issue, she was ‘cleared’.  How she was cleared is a game the politicians played. They asked the question whether she was entitled to a chauffeur’s allowance which was ‘yes’. They totally ignored the part of cashing a dead man’s cheques for years, which would land any mere mortal in the clink so to speak.

The PP has also made the same blunder. In defending the maligned Julie Browne of the SIA, the authorities (at least the man in charge) explained that she

“was innocent of falsifying Ramnarine's resume, a contention that was never in dispute. He went on to say she was cleared of that particular lie by a polygraph test conducted by foreign experts.”

He made clear he has sought to "investigate the matter, with particular focus on the falsification of the qualifications of Ms Reshmi Ramnarine" and "the investigations reveal that Ms Browne did not falsify Ms Ramnarine's qualifications. Ms Browne was led to believe that Ms Ramnarine was qualified as she had stated".

Camini Maharaj does ask some rather pertinent questions though:

He provided no explanation, however, for the Browne recommendation:

• Specifically, who requested it?

• And if a request was made, was she a willing conspirator?

• Why was it sent secretly to Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and not to her line minister, Brigadier John Sandy?

• Why did she fail to conduct basic background security checks?

• Why did she fail to follow up on the character references listed? Three of the named references said they had no knowledge Ramnarine was under consideration for the directorship nor did they give her permission to use their names.

• Why did she overlook the embellished work experience cited in Ramnarine's CV? As a 14-year veteran in the agency, she knew or ought to have known the low-level IT technician was never involved in field operations or worked with Mossad.

• Why is she named as a character reference in the CV submitted for Cabinet's consideration?

But more than the security failings, the colonel also failed to address the corrupted appointment process which placed Ramnarine in the top spy chief post and the official deception Browne engaged in, namely, in her January 10, 2011 letter to the Prime Minister, she said: "It is felt that the position of an interim director would be best served by the following:

• Someone who has a history in the SIA (Security Intelligence Agency) and who understands the culture and inner workings of this and similar organizations.

—(Ramnarine was never privy to the inner workings of the agency.)

• Someone with a proven track record in the field of criminal intelligence.

—(Ramnarine has no training in criminal intelligence.)

• Someone who is knowledgeable and experienced with respect to the administrative, operational and technological aspects of the agency's functions.

—(Ramnarine was a low-level Technician I until her meteoric rise to the top of the agency and was never engaged in any administrative or supervisory work.)

• Someone who, at this time, has the support of staff (senior and junior).

—(A lie. Apart from Browne, Carlton Dennie and a few others, the staff did not support Ramnarine.)

• As a member of a transformation team comprising senior members of the SSA and SIA, who are spearheading the merger of the SSA and SIA, Ms Ramnarine has met these criteria.

—(A lie. Also, the so-called transformation team was cobbled together late last year and had barely met.)

• Previous performance appraisals recommended her for immediate promotion as she is known to face challenges head on and can effectively manage duties at a higher level.

—(A lie. Her performance appraisals, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, were at best mediocre. Ramnarine, Browne and Dennie were all marginalised by former spy chief Nigel Clement, who was fired last November 10 by Persad-Bissessar.)

Colonel Griffith's exoneration of Browne also failed to take into account the dynamics behind her "Dear Prime Minister" letter which Persad-Bissessar used as a tool to achieve the larger scheme of putting one of her adviser's close friends in a position ripe with the potential for abuse —the very abuse she forcefully condemned when she accused her predecessor, Manning, of spying on civilians, in the House of Representatives on November 12.

From all the evidence at hand, Browne was no innocent bystander in the Reshmi affair. She played a pivotal role in moving the appointment process forward. She made material misrepresentations to the NSC and the Cabinet and would now have the world believe she took Ramnarine at her word that she had completed an IT degree. If nothing else, the senior intelligence officer has proved inept at her job.