Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP, is calling for an urgent and immediate investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged secret settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against former Minister of Sport Mr. Darryl Smith, with the payment of $150,000 from public funds.
The Opposition Leader has written to the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chairman of the Integrity Commission, stating that there are “strong grounds for suspecting that several criminal offences may have been committed as well as the possible breach of several provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act and the Code of Conduct”.
The Opposition Leader said the recent disclosure by the media of the Report raised an undeniable prima facie case for the possibility of the commission of several very serious criminal offences, including conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, misbehaviour in public office, and a breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act Chapter 22:01 by several persons, including the Honourable Prime Minister, the Honourable Attorney General, former Minister Darryl Smith, and the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar noted that the Report of the Committee appointed by the Honourable Prime Minister to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment was hidden from public scrutiny. The Prime Minister, she noted, sought to remain silent until the controversy was brought in the public domain by the media. “When the contents of the report were leaked by the media, the Prime Minister reacted by attacking his own committee’s Report by making public pronouncements that impugned the integrity of the process which was utilized,” she stated.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar questioned whether the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, former Minister Mr. Darryl Smith, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sport, and attorney at law Mr. Michael Quamina conspired to procure a covert settlement of the sexual harassment claim brought against the former Minister of Sport in circumstances where the victim was subject to a gag order.
“In other words, whether public funds were used for an improper and illegal purpose namely, to purchase the silence of the victim of a most egregious and serious sexual harassment,” she stated.
“It is a complete abuse of power to bypass the financial regulatory framework and misuse public funds for the improper purpose of silencing an alleged victim of serious sexual harassment which she claims have been committed by a sitting Government Minister,” the Opposition Leader said. “The abuse is compounded by the furtive manner in which this was achieved, which we must highlight, would never have seen the light of day, except but for the media exposure concerning the settlement. There was neither Cabinet nor Ministerial approval for this settlement, so it begs the question, on whose authority was this matter settled?”
In her letter, the Opposition Leader expressed grave concern over the statements made by one of the three women who comprised the investigative committee, who said that the Prime Minister and the Attorney General were fully aware of the terms of reference, and therefore the rubbishing of the Report ex post facto is nothing short of another desperate, covert, clandestine, and surreptitious attempt to hide this Report.
The Opposition Leader questioned why the Prime Minister failed to refer this Report to the DPP, CoP, or Integrity Commission for investigation in light of the clear and cogent grounds for an urgent criminal investigation.
She concluded, “These are serious issues that require immediate action and urgent intervention by the COP, the DPP, and the Integrity Commission to determine whether the aforementioned laws have been breached. It is clear that there is a concerted and sustained effort by the government to sweep this matter under the carpet, and therefore ask that this matter is given the priority that it clearly deserves.”