Thursday, April 18, 2024

Trinidad opposition plans to blank parliamentary investigation into British consulting firm


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PORT OF SPAIN – The main opposition United National Congress (UNC) says it will not participate in the parliamentary probe to determine whether or not the British based political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), had undertaken a project in Trinidad and Tobago involving harvesting the data of this country’s population

“The government’s move to refer the Cambridge Analytica matter to National Security Joint Select Committee is nothing more than a political witch hunt, and the United National Congress will not subject itself to the Attorney General’s political ‘pappy show’,” the UNC said in a statement.

Last month, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi told Parliament that whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, had told United Kingdom lawmakers that the company, which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process, had undertaken work here in 2013 under the former People’s Partnership administration headed by former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Al-Rawi said he it was therefore “incumbent upon the Office of the Attorney General . . . to cause an audit of all government ministries, statutory authorities, state enterprises and the National Security Council to see whether any contract was established, whether any payments were made and whether any services were rendered by . . . Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ (AIQ) and the Strategic Communications Laboratory (SCL) Group”.

The alleged acts committed by Cambridge Analytica and its affiliates . . . potentially constitute breaches of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago,” Al-Rawi said.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley earlier this month said he will ask Parliament to debate the activities of the British firm and that the parliamentary debate will be held “at the earliest opportunity”.

He said it will also form the basis of a Joint Select Committee meeting to be chaired by the Minister in the Office of the Attorney General, Fitzgerald Hinds.

The probe has been welcomed by the Congress of the People (COP), which formed part of the coalition government that was headed by Persad-Bissessar.

But in its statement, the UNC said the move by the government “is yet another attempt . . . to name and shame members of the former administration based on faulty evidence and, by making wild and reckless statements in the public domain . . . .

“The UNC is on the public record as having welcomed a lawful, independent and transparent investigation by the competent lawful authorities, into the alleged activities of Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ and the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group and their affiliated companies in Trinidad and Tobago.

“We support an investigation by the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Integrity Commission, who are the appropriate persons to conduct investigations into allegations of breaches of the law,” the party said, repeating its earlier position that “it had no involvement, contract, or dealings with Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ, or the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group or their affiliates for the purpose of data mining as has been alleged.

“We state categorically that the JSC on National Security is not the appropriate body to examine this matter.  Joint Select Committees (JSCs) of the Parliament are a creation of the Constitution. They are created to provide independent mechanisms to ensure that the actions of State entities are transparent, accountable and accord with the highest standards of good governance,” the UNC added. (CMC)


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