Char­ran­dass Per­saud probe is ‘na­tional se­cu­rity’ mat­ter

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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.

Char­ran­dass Per­saud

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