Opposition senator renews call for Foster Cummings to step down

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UNC senator Jayanti Lutchmedial during a political meeting in Barrackpore on Friday night. – Photo courtesy UNC

Opposition senator Jayanti Lutchmedial has renewed her call for Youth Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings to demit office after a High Court judge dismissed his application for an injunction to stop her from talking about his pending police investigations over alleged financial misconduct.

If he fails to resign, Lutchmedial wants the Prime Minister to fire Cummings.

“The PM is now making a habit of keeping persons in his Cabinet despite them having serious questions to answer with the police over financial transactions,” Lutchmedial said on Friday.

She said the continued defence of Cummings who has been linked to several questionable financial transactions with state agencies and a Couva credit union, the latter which falls under ministerial portfolio, is further eroding public confidence in fairness, justice and democracy.

On Friday, High Court judge Nadia Kangaloo dismissed Cummings’ application for an injunction to prevent Lutchmedial from speaking about or publishing the contents of a Special Branch report naming Cummings, the general secretary of the People’s National Movement (PNM).

Based on the evidence presented to the court, Kangaloo found Lutchmedial took a reasonable, methodical, reasoned and careful approach and exercised her due diligence in confirming the authenticity of the documents.

Cummings was also ordered to pay the legal costs incurred by Lutchmedial in defending the lawsuit. Her legal team was led by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan.

Cummings sued Lutchmedial after she read contents of the Special Branch report on a United National Congress (UNC) platform on May 5. She later posted the report on Facebook calling for a full investigation by the police.

La Horquetta/Talparo MP Foster Cummings –

Lutchmedial said this failed attempt by Cummings will neither silence or hinder her from carrying out her duties to exercise her right to freedom of political expression and expose wrongdoing to hold the government to account.

She said Cummings must do the honourable thing and step down as a minister until the police complete their investigations. “In the absence of this principled approach, he ought to be fired forthwith by the Prime Minister,” she wrote on Facebook.

She said the PM must take heed of the judgement and recognise that the “comparatively weak” arguments raised by Cummings does nothing to quell the public’s desire for transparency and accountability from elected officials.

“This Government has continued to demonstrate that they are the embodiment of shameless hypocrisy.

“On the one hand they claim to be bringing legislation to protect whistle blowers while on the other they are rushing to court to muzzle any discussion or questioning when it comes to their dealings. It seems that blowing the whistle on anyone but the PNM is their policy.”

“They appear oblivious to the public’s demand for greater priority to be placed on investigating wrongdoing by public officials.”

While the police has been quite vocal about their concern over the leaking of the report, she questioned their silence on what if anything has since been done.

She linked the report with a 2017 televised report into complaints of land grabbing in the Couva area. The media report also drew a link to the bulldozing of Caroni and HDC lands which they occupied for a number of years.

She questioned whether complainants Ray Connell and another man were ever investigated by the police and asked for a statement in the ongoing investigation since then Housing Minister Randall Mitchell, under whose portfolio the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) fell, promised an probe into the acts he described as a “trespass against the HDC.”

“The HDC cannot to date say how one family was allowed to acquire three HDC properties in the Couva area, which can only be transferred with their consent. This seems wholly inconsistent with the mandate of this agency and in the absence of full disclosure the population is left to wonder about the level of nepotism that pervades state enterprises.”

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