Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has all but dismissed questions raised in Parliament this week by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler about alleged illegal wiretapping between 2000 and 2009, during most of which the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was in power.
Without specifically mentioning the bugging allegation, Mottley told a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s office this afternoon that Sinckler’s comments were nothing short of a red herring to distract Barbadians from the many problems facing the country in the lead up to the general election, due by the middle of this year.
“It is difficult to ignore or remain silent on the clearly deliberate attempt by some in our midst to dumb down the reality and the gravity of the economic challenges confronting Barbados,” the BLP leader said.
“When a Minister of Finance can finally find his tongue and opts to speak to an alleged happening in 2006 over the grim reality painted for Barbados by the Central Bank, the IMF [International Monetary Fund], Moody’s and now the CDB [Caribbean Development Bank] then we know this red ‘herringneering’ is not an accident. This is the Democratic Labour Party’s election strategy that has been revealed in all of its nakedness,” Mottley added.
In his contribution to the debate on the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 2017 on Tuesday, Sinckler cautioned that unnamed persons, whom he said had illegally recorded phone calls and Internet transmissions of public officials and private individuals during the tenure of the last BLP Government, were waiting “in the wings” for the call of elections to continue their “dastardly” acts.
Sinckler sought to make it clear that he was not accusing the former Owen Arthur-led regime of authorizing, or knowing about, the wiretapping because, he said, even Arthur’s phone was bugged.
And while he cast no aspersions, leaving it instead to Barbadians to conclude who might have ordered the bugging, the minister also said “when these matters are dispensed, a full and complete investigation ought to be done to find out who it is that was empowering certain people to tap phones in Barbados”.
Mottley today suggested it was all smoke and mirrors by an administration that could not defend its performance in office.
“We are not moved by the Minister of Finance coming to us with three to four hours of abusive talk and excuses while not addressing the views of the national, regional and international institutions . . . . In his nakedness he will try to hide behind DLP myths of the 1994-2008 BLP Government,” she stressed.
Former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin had long been accused of masterminding the wiretapping, after a suspended policeman had in 2010 alleged bugging of phones of senior officials.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) subsequently conducted an investigation and wrote then Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave accusing Dottin of conducting “unlawful” wiretapping of innocent citizens, and recommending his retirement in the public’s interest.
However, few details of the allegations against the then police chief had been known until Barbados TODAY obtained a copy of a damning 16-page letter which the PSC had written to the Governor General outlining the case against Dottin.
In the letter dated June 10, 2013 the PSC had charged that the conduct of the former top cop amounted to a criminal offence, but that it had become impossible to prosecute him given the fact that, as Commissioner of Police at the time, he was the person responsible for commencing criminal proceedings.
The PSC had also said that at least three serving members of the Force had provided information to the Commission that they were deployed by Dottin to tap the telephones of a number of citizens, or were otherwise aware of evidence of this activity.
This morning Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite avoided questions regarding the possible prosecution of the former top cop, preferring instead to refer to pending legislation aimed at addressing any future illegal wiretapping.
“My comment on that would be as follows. You would have heard in the Prime Minister’s presentation that we intend to bring an Interception of Communications Bill to Parliament, so that there is a clear legislative framework in place,” Brathwaite said in reference Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s announcement in Parliament on Tuesday during debate on the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill.
PSC Chairman Guyson Mayers also refused to discuss the subject, telling Barbados TODAY this morning he would not comment because the letter which he had sent to the then Governor General was confidential.
Meantime, the Opposition Leader accused Sinckler of “political gamesmanship”, arguing that the Estimates presented on Tuesday was a desperate attempt by the DLP to hold on “to the last possible of the 90 days after Parliament dissolves, enabling them to draw salaries, to enter contracts and spend whatever they want to spend without Parliamentary oversight”.
Mottley attacked recent announcements by the administration to transfer more than 1,400 Government housing units to occupants in a matter of weeks, and to appoint thousands of public servants, contending that the governing party would use the 90-day period after Parliament dissolves to curry favour with the public, even at tremendous cost to the country.
“Coming now to give a couple hundred people jobs may appear clever to this Government; throwing sugar cakes in potholes six weeks before elections may appear clever to this Government; hurriedly awarding contracts at the Rural Development Commission and the Urban Development Commission to fix problems that have been lingering in people’s houses for years may appear clever to this Government,” Mottley said, adding that Barbadians would not be fooled into thinking that “Government cares for them all of a sudden in the weeks before election”.