People who followed the saga leading to the dismissal of Darryl Smith from the cabinet must be as bemused as we are by the new narrative being peddled by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with what appears to be the grateful support of Mr Smith himself.
In a revision of history, Dr Rowley is now claiming that he dismissed Smith in 2018 for “interfering improperly in the public service” and that no complaint or document involving accusations of sexual harassment ever came before him in the investigation that culminated with his firing of Smith. This jaw-dropping assertion leaves us to wonder what Dr Rowley could have been investigating.
In the interest of refreshing the public’s memory, we recount the trail of documented information which apparently did not make the cut when the PM decided to investigate the then minister of sport.
On April 7, 2018, this newspaper broke the story of the case filed in the Industrial Court by Sport Ministry employee Carrie-Ann Moreau against her boss Minister Smith. In the legal submission reported by journalist Sheila Rampersad, Moreau claimed she was fired six months into a three-year contract after complaining about being sexually harassed by him. To back up her claim she attached WhatsApp messages and alleged comments by Mr Smith.
Entering the story as attorney for the ministry was Michael Quamina, widely known as the Prime Minister’s personal attorney, who has since been appointed chairman of State-owned Trinidad Petroleum Holdings and Heritage Petroleum. On January 26, 2017, the day before the matter was to be heard in court, the parties struck an agreement under which Moreau accepted $250,000 in exchange for withdrawing her case and signing a non-disclosure agreement.
Within three days of the story breaking, and amid growing public outrage over a cover-up, the Prime Minister fired Smith and announced the establishment of a three-woman committee to thoroughly review the circumstances surrounding the dismissal and payment of compensation by the ministry to Ms Moreau.
If, as Dr Rowley is now claiming, his only rationale for firing Darryl Smith was for his interference in public service processes, we must wonder why one of the three committee members was Folade Mutota, advocate for women’s issues. It strains credibility to think that Dr Rowley would not have factored into his decision either the allegation of sexual harassment or the payment of $250,000 of taxpayers’ money in settlement for an alleged private wrong.
Luckily for our political history, the committee took the entire matter on board when it concluded that senior officials of the Sport Ministry had deliberately excluded the Government’s Personnel Department from the negotiations with Carrie-Ann Moreau to contain the matter within the ministry and to minimise potential damage to Darryl Smith.
It is bad enough that Dr Rowley should be attempting to rewrite history in this matter. However, as notable, or worse, is his continued attempt to silence the voices of the women who are key to this story. The central figure, Carrie-Ann Moreau, remains gagged under the non-disclosure agreement terms of her settlement while the report of the three women who investigated the case, human resource expert Jacqueline Wilson, attorney Elaine Greene and Folade Mutota, seems to count for nothing.