PNM supporters greet Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

reaching out: PNM supporters greet Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on his arrival at the party’s public meeting at the Signature Hall in Montrose, Chaguanas, on Tuesday night. 

MEMBERS of the United National Congress (UNC) threatened Christopher Wylie, the whistle-blower in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And Wylie cleared Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, who was then national security minister in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government, of any complicity in the data-­mining imbroglio.

This was said by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he addressed a public meeting in Chaguanas on Tuesday night.

The Prime Minister quoted from correspondence to him by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, which said: “Mr Wylie agreed to provide Trini­dad and Tobago with assistance and I (the Attorney General) subsequently met him with his attorneys in the United Kingdom in the pre­sence of our UK attorneys.

“He indicated that he was prepared to give evidence before our Joint Select Committee to deal with the issue. Mr Wylie informed that he had received threats from members of the UNC and was afraid for his life and he effectively went silent.”

Following his silence, Wylie published his experience in a book titled Mindf*ck.

“Wylie specifically informed, when I asked, that Gary Griffith has nothing to do with Cambridge Analytica or any of the other entities,” the Prime Minister said, quoting the AG’s communication.

The Prime Minister said a crimi­nal investigation had been taking place, adding he was sending documentation to the Attorney General to pass it on for criminal investigation at the office of the Commissioner of Police.

However, the Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader was saying “who de hell cares”, in an attempt to dismiss the deep violation of the privacy of Trinidadians and Tobagonians, using a foreign private entity as the instrument.

The Prime Minister said what happened with Cambridge Analytica, in which the raw de-anonymised data (in which people are personally identifiable) was given to a foreign private entity, must never happen again.

Never again

The Prime Minister said having perfected the data harvesting me­thodology in Trinidad and Tobago with the blessing of the UNC, the foreign entity used the methodology in the United States where they captured and sold data on 80 milli­on Americans for a fee of US$.50 per name.

He said the Trinidad and Toba­go data was “thrown (free) in as lag­niappe”.

“The UNC must answer to us because we need to know who have our data,” the Prime Minister added.

“All of this could not have gone on without criminal facilitation on the part of the perpetrator,” he said.

The Prime Minister said Wylie knew he could potentially be arrested the minute he set foot in Trinidad for what he had done.

Rowley vowed to take action to prevent a reoccurrence of the Cambridge Analytica affair.

He proposed to strengthen the parliamentary enquiry system by giving joint select committees the power of subpoena, with penalties for non-compliance and false testimony.

“We are not so hungry for power and authority that we will damage and disgrace and expose the people of Trinidad and Tobago to try and win an election. They (the UNC) didn’t care; they still don’t care what happens to you, and they are lying to you so that you could just accept what they have done, and they will continue to do it again.

“This must never happen again in Trinidad and Tobago, and to do that, we are going to have to pass the relevant laws, do the relevant investigation. It is like pulling teeth. At least Mr Wylie came out and said what he did; the other names I called went before the British Parliament and admitted in testimony what they did. But in Trinidad and Tobago, we only facing lies, lies, lies, lies, lies,” he said.

“You see those parliamentary committees? We have to look and see whether we have what it takes to make it mandatory that if you are required to appear before a parliamentary committee to conduct any investigation, that you must come. And when you come, if you get testimony that turns out to be a lie, you must face the penalty which would involve jail,” he said.

“You must not be able to come to the Parliament and in giving testimony, lie. That is the only way we can conduct proper investigations in cases like this to get to the bottom of this thing.”

He noted Wylie had said this country had weak institutions, which they were able to exploit to the hilt.

“Now we know, we will fix it,” the Prime Minister pledged.

Our data in Russia 

Quoting from testimony to the US Senate Judiciary Committee, the Prime Minister said scientist Dr Alek­sandr Kogan, who was working out of the University of St Petersburg in Russia, owned the data of all the Internet users of Trinidad and Tobago, according to the documents.

Yet, the Opposition Leader asked “who de hell cares”, he said, repeating Persad-Bissessar’s statement at a UNC public meeting in Marabella on Monday night.

The Prime Minister said having someone’s private, personal data allowed you to subject the person to extortion.

“Those who facilitated that have automatically gone to the default position, ‘it’s a lie’.”

He said the main mouthpiece, Roodal Moonilal, was asking his Government to produce the contract and the cheque.

“They believe that they have created the perfect crime and that nobody would find out. They know there is no cheque from the UNC to those people, but a cheque is not the only way they could have been paid,” the Prime Minister said.

Suggesting there were diversionary techniques used by the UNC government to make payments, he cited a number of projects in State companies, including the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) and the National Gas Company (NGC).

The Prime Minister said Ross Advertising, in what was supposed to be a project that started out at $250,000, eventually was paid $13 million for advertising at CDA.

“What was the CDA doing to advertise? And what did the CDA get for that $13 million?” the Prime Minister asked.

He said Ross Advertising received $36 million from the NGC.

He said, for instance, under “Communications, Advertising and Branding”, the NGC spent $21 million in 2010 and $21 million in 2011.

This rose to $37 million in 2013, $120 million in 2014 and $236 million in 2015, he said.

The Prime Minister dismissed the view of “talking heads” that Government’s concern over the Cambridge Analytica matter had anything to do with the upcoming elections.

He said the issue will be alive and well long after election.

He reiterated that this matter will continue to be a subject of investigation with the assistance of T&T’s international partners.

Ernie Ross, head of Ross Advertising, said yesterday that any connection made between Cambridge Analytica and his company was completely unfounded.

He told TV6 News the Prime Mi­n­is­ter’s statements were unfoun­ded and defamatory, and said the matter was in the hands of his attorneys.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

Political parties have expressed grave concern over the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) move to destroy thousands of “defective ballot” papers.

The EBC issued a release yesterday saying during the issuance of ballot papers to special electors in 40 electo­ral districts, an exercise which took place on November 20, 2019, “the prescribed procedure was not followed with respect to certain electoral districts”.

Political Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah said yesterday the party is seriously concerned about the special ballots situation as “some ten electoral districts in which our candidates are contesting were affected by this development”.

Knox Street is to be pedestrianised. And the eternal flame and the First People’s monument will be landmark sites on this street. These are among the new features of the restored Red House.

POLICE Commissioner Gary Griffith and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi have apologised to residents of Gulf View in La Romaine, whose homes were raided in May as police searched for a kidnap victim.

Commuters were hit with cancellations and delays yesterday as Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) bus drivers, mechanics and other workers in San Fernando made a demand for proper working vehicles.