Charrandass Persaud probe is ‘national security’ matter
- Top Cop says
Police Commissioner Leslie James yesterday refused to disclose details of the ongoing investigation involving former government Member of Parliament (MP) Charrandass Persaud, saying that it is a national security issue which “will not be disclosed publicly” at this point.
“…It’s a matter where a former Member of Parliament is reported to have been involved allegedly in some matter and that is what we’re dealing with,” he told reporters when asked what makes the matter being probed one of national security.
James responded to questions from the media shortly after the opening ceremony of the Guyana Police Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference had ended at State House.
An opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the government was declared passed by Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Barton Scotland on December 21st last following a “yes” vote from Persaud. Government had initially accepted the passage but later backtracked, claiming that the Persaud’s vote was invalid given that he is a Canadian citizen and that the motion needed 34 votes and not 33 to succeed. Court action has since been filed in relation to both arguments and the matters will be heard by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire next Tuesday.
Subsequent to Persaud’s departure from Guyana, reports surfaced that he was being investigated by the police. Several theories were advanced but the police have never disclosed what they are probing or what led to the commencement of the investigation. James yesterday opted not to provide answers to these two questions. “The investigation is ongoing and, as I said prior, it’s a matter of national security,” he said.
Noting that he is unaware of any member of the force being investigated as part of the probe, the commissioner said that no attempts have yet been made to speak with Persaud. He was adamant that if that need arises, contact will be made with the former MP. “I cannot determine the credibility of the evidence but at I am saying at this point, we’re gathering evidence,” he said before later declining to say specifically what is being investigated.
Asked whether it is bribery or gold smuggling, misconduct or Persaud fleeing the country, he said, “whatever is established will be determined. We do not determine what is established. What we do is investigate matters and submit for legal advice.”
Pressed further, he said, “As I said, we are at this point in time collecting evidence… on a matter that was reported to us of national security importance. I would say that at this point in time. As I said, it’s a sensitive matter. Please give due regard to that.”
James also declined to say whether Peter Ramsaroop, who facilitated Persaud’s exit from the country, is being investigated. “I wouldn’t make any further disclosure at this point. As I said the media will be updated as we progress,” he added.
James informed reporters that a press conference will be held “shortly” to disclose the details that the media were seeking.
Ramsaroop, a businessman and member of the PPP who was sitting behind Persaud on the night of the vote, lifted his fist in a victory gesture when the former government MP voted in favour of the motion. He stayed close to Persaud after the vote had ended and they left the Public Buildings in the same vehicle. It was later revealed that Ramsaroop had obtained a protocol pass the following day at the Eugene F. Correia International Airport and accompanied Persaud to the airplane, which was destined for Barbados. A Canadian diplomat was also in their company. Ramsaroop has denied knowing beforehand that Persaud was going to defect and insisted that he provided security to the former MP because of their close friendship.
“I requested a pass and I got a pass. I went in as Peter Ramsaroop (and) requested a pass. I was with Mr Charrandass. I wasn’t with any other party. My responsibility, if you saw in all the videos… I stood right next to him. I walked with him. I requested a pass on his behalf to get him to the airplane,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Persaud is presently in Canada. He is a citizen of that country.
‘No further comment’
Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Lilian Chatterjee yesterday refused to comment on the role one of the High Commission’s security officers played in Persaud’s exit from Guyana.
Chatterjee, who was in attendance at the opening ceremony of the conference, was approached after it ended.
Asked about the officer’s presence at the airport, she said “it is not the Canadian High Commission’s practice to comment on consular cases involving Canadian citizens but what I can say is the Canada has enjoyed for more than 52 years very close relations with Guyana and we hope that will continue. That’s all I have to say on the matter.”
When asked if the officer was authorised to be at the airport, she said, “I have no further comment.”
She did, however, confirm that she met with Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge on Wednesday but declined to say if this issue was discussed. “I have no further comment,” she said before walking off.
Meanwhile, when asked yesterday if the issue of the diplomat escorting Persaud was discussed during the meeting with Chatterjee, Greenidge did not answer immediately. When he answered, he said, the meeting was to discuss bilateral relations.
In response to articles published in the media, the Ogle Airport Inc (OAI) has confirmed that Persaud was a passenger on LIAT flight #LI 392, which departed the Eugene F. Correia International Airport at 6:17 a.m. on December 22nd, 2018. Persaud, the OAI said in a press release, arrived at the airport accompanied by Richard Beliveau, Mission Security Officer of the High Commission of Canada, together with Ramsaroop.
“Mr. Beliveau presented himself and his Ministry of Foreign Affairs ID Card to the Airport Duty Officer and requested a pass to accompany a passenger to the aircraft. Mr. Peter Ramsaroop also requested a pass, saying he was part of Mr. Beliveau’s party,” it noted.
The release said the Airport Duty Officer, in accordance with an established courtesy practice requested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be extended to diplomatic personnel, granted a protocol pass to both persons. The passes were duly returned in exchange for their respective ID documents on their departure from the Airport, it added.
Questions had been raised as to why Ramsaroop was in the company of the diplomat and why he was given a pass.
Ramsaroop later denied that he was in the company of the diplomat.
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority has since suspended the issuance of such passes. OAI has insisted that no security breach surrounding Persaud’s departure occurred.