Moonilal: PM must say if senior army personnel were given inducements during 'Armygate' investigation

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - 10:30

Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling on the prime minister to state whether inducements were given to senior members of the Defence Force during investigations into the photographs showing the Attorney General's children handling weapons at an army camp.

Dr Moonilal is claiming that two senior army members recently purchased apartments at the HDC's Victoria Key's Housing Estate.

He issued the following statement from his office on Tuesday.

"Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley must state whether his Government provided any inducements to the most senior officers of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force in the midst of an investigation into “Armygate.”

“Armygate” pertains to the photographed evidence of the children of Attorney General Faris Al Rawi posing with high-powered military weapons at the restricted Cumuto army base.

I had made that disclosure in Parliament last October.

At this week’s Monday Night Forum of United National Congress, I publicly revealed that Rodney Smart on April 13, 2017, bought a three-bedroom Housing Development Corporation home at the upscale Victoria Keys Housing Estate from “personal funds/savings” for $2.4 million.

Brigadier General Rodney Smart is the name of the recently-retired Chief of Defence Staff.

I also disclosed that Hayden Pritchard on February 20, 2017, bought a two-bedroom home in the same housing community for $1.85 million.

Hayden Pritchard is the name of the current Acting Chief of Defence Staff.

Mr. Smart and Mr. Pritchard would have had final responsibility, at various times, for the investigation into major breaches in procedures that led to Mr. Al Rawi’s children posing with deadly weapons at the controlled army site.

I stressed that this was no indictment on the integrity of Mr. Smart and Mr. Pritchard, who are career military officers and are expected to conduct themselves with the highest professionalism and honour.

But I recalled the meeting that in April 2016, Dr. Rowley had called for a “detailed investigation into alleged inducements and personal benefits” to police officers involved in an enquiry pertaining to former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Dr. Rowley alleged that the investigating police officers had received State housing, Priority Bus Route passes and had their vacations bought out.

Of note is that Mr. Smart’s vacation leave was bought out by the current Government and this was justified by National Security Minister Edmund Dillon.

I repeat my call for members of the protective services to conduct themselves with the professionalism and trustworthiness befitting their independent offices.

I also reiterate my demand for Dr. Rowley to indicate whether public housing was provided to the respective heads of the Defence Force in the midst of the enquiry into the explosive “Armygate.”