ational Security Minister, Stuart Young, Thursday hinted at the possibility of legal action being taken against a former member of the Strategic Service Agency (SSA) who earlier this week claimed that he had been given instructions by senior government ministers, including Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, to dismiss all citizens of Indian descent from the security agency.
Stuart, speaking to reporters at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting, said that he had asked legal officers “to look at both his contract at the SSA which contains confidentiality and secrecy provisions, but also a written oath of secrecy and have the legal analysis performed working with the office of the Attorney General,” Young told reporters.
“He said the purpose of the exercise is to “see if there was any breach…and any legal action that can be taken”.
Prime Minister 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.
Dennie told supporters that after the Rowley government had fired the “legitimate director of the SSA” in 2015, adding “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.
Young told reporters that the action being taken against the former SSA official is not personal.
He said it is the “duty of the government and as Minister of National Security for us to continue to protect organisations and our intelligence organisations.
“Because if officers believe that they can serve and we are giving you exposure to classified secret information and then you are upset…have a disagreement with your employer and you can go out there now and expose state secrets it cannot be tolerated,” Young said, adding “and we will take action against Mr. Dennie if he has breached those provisions to protect the institution”.
But Dennie, speaking at a news conference earlier, sought to clarify the statement he made on Monday night, saying that it was all for political games.
“I will not say that the PNM told me to fire the East Indians. I did not say that the Minister of National Security told me to fire the East Indians. I said that I served under four different heads of National Security Council. The director of the SSA is the person who attends the National Security Council meetings.
“So for the PM and other ministers to go harping on these minor issues, to create spins and re-direct the focus of the main issues just show the games that politics play to offset the minds of people in the public,” he told reporters, adding that a former interim director of the SSA “ask me to assist him in firing the East Indian”.
Young said he was disappointed that former prime minister Bissessar had allowed Dennie to mount her political platform to make such accusations against the intelligence service.
“I must tell you it pains me to stand here and provide statistics on the basis of race, but it is the only way to deal with this dangerous concept that has now been frontally introduced by the (opposition) United National Congress).
He said that since 2015 when the People’s National Movement (PNM) came into office, a total of 79 members of the SSA had been dismissed, including 57 people of Afro Trinidadian descent as part of the re-organisation plans.
“I give the people of Trinidad and Tobago now that all those terminations were on the basis of merit or based on the issue of performance and also based on what was needed in the organisation at the time. At no point in time, did the concept…of race entered into the fray”.
Young said that in 2010, when the UNC came into office they immediately dismantled a number of important institutions in the security apparatus of Trinidad and Tobago. “With respect to the SSA, we have found evidence….of a plan to terminate 127 officers.
“I am saddened to tell you that out of those that they did terminate immediately on entering into office, they terminated 27 workers, 25 out of the 27 were Afro Trinidadians…and one Chinese”.
He said the dismissals could only have been described as a “cleansing of the organisation”.
Like Rowley, the National Security Minister warned against allowing race to play an integral role in the development of the “multi-ethnic society” here.