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‘Wicked scheme’ in Gumbs’s claims

...PNM examines legal options
Published: 
Sunday, August 9, 2015

"Who has the most to gain?"

That is the question coming out of the People’s National Movement (PNM) camp after former Express investigative journalist Anika Gumbs levelled accusations of impropriety at their leader Dr Keith Rowley.

Party public relations officer (PRO) Faris Al-Rawi and attorney Michael Quamina addressed the issue on Rowley’s behalf yesterday, and said the party was currently examining its legal options.

While Al-Rawi steered clear of saying Gumbs was paid to make those accusations, he linked the million-dollar assassination plot against Rowley to this impugning of his character.

“They are involved in a very wicked scheme,” Al-Rawi said.

Gumbs has been publicly linked to a company that has received government contracts. When asked if that information was part of the PNM's legal rebuttal, Al-Rawi demurred.

“Well, no doubt that is a very real consideration. You have raised something which I have alluded to by way of information which we have; the existence of government contracts is a serious thing. How much one is paid for government contracts, how they are procured, how well-heeled you are, how you afford the lifestyle that you live are very real considerations for Trinidad and Tobago,” Al-Rawi said.

He said the PNM would deal only with “facts” going forward in this matter.

“We will certainly be looking at all of these things...we are well aware of the allegations that Ms Gumbs has been the beneficiary of state contracts, and I think that one must look to all of the parameters and associations that come with that.”

Gumbs, in her resignation letter to Express boss Omatie Lyder on Friday, detailed three meetings with Rowley—one at the office of the Opposition Leader in January, and two other meetings at his private home on April 9 and April 21. 

She claimed that on April 9, he touched her on the back while asking about her tattoo. Gumbs also claimed that on April 21, Rowley asked about being a bodyguard outside her bedroom and was barebacked during their meeting. 

Gumbs alleged that Rowley’s action several months ago has now left her too “traumatised” to continue with her job at the Express.

Quamina said that while Rowley did recollect meeting with Gumbs, he stoutly denied ever behaving in the manner she described.

“The allegations are simply untrue,” Quamina said.

Quamina said that even though Gumbs referred to an incident with Rowley in January which left her uncomfortable, she returned to meet with him twice after that.

“It seems somewhat inconsistent with having alleged one uncomfortable experience to put oneself at risk of repeating the said experience, not just once but twice,” Quamina said.

He also questioned the delay in Gumbs’ reporting to her seniors at the Express.

“Why would one not raise this issue formally for seven months after the alleged first incident, and then four months after the alleged second and third incident?” he asked.

But according to Gumbs’ resignation letter, she did raise the matter with senior management weeks after it occurred but left out Rowley’s name, labelling him an “official” in her oral report to Lyder.

“As you may recall, I first discussed the matter with you on May 5 without naming Dr Rowley. During that conversation I opted to refer to Dr Rowley as an offical,” Gumbs stated in the resignation letter.

Gumbs also stated that she again raised the matter with Lyder on May 19 and was directed to use the employee assistance programme for relevant counselling.

“During the period of counselling even though I was asked by you to identify the official I opted not to because of the office he holds. I opted to withhold his name from you until recently because of the office Dr Rowley holds,” Gumbs wrote.

Both Al-Rawi and Quamina also question the way Gumbs' resignation letter was written, saying that it appeared to be more akin to a “crafted witness statement designed to cause damage to Dr Rowley” than a resignation letter.

“While it is easy to speculate as to the motive, my purpose is to communicate that there is absolutely no truth whatsoever to these allegations,” Quamina said.

Though several attempts to contact Lyder and Gumbs were unsuccessful, the Sunday Guardian learned that Gumbs spoke privately to several close colleagues before penning her resignation letter to Lyder.

Insiders at the Express yesterday said that they too could not understand how Gumbs linked Rowley’s alleged behaviour and the integrity of the paper, as one had nothing to do with the other. 

Gumbs’ lawyer, former senate president Nizam Mohammed, is looking into the matter.

No $$ incentive, it’sludicrous—Moonilal

Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday dismissed any allegations that the People’s Partnership offered Gumbs a financial incentive to accuse Rowley of improper behaviour.

Moonilal, in a text exchange with the Sunday Guardian yesterday, said that it was “ludicrous” to speculate that Gumbs received a financial incentive.

“It is a sick attempt to trivialise a very serious accusation that speaks to improper and highly unethical conduct,” Moonilal said.

Moonilal did not respond to claims that Gumbs’ private company was awarded contracts by the Government.

PM responds

In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar denied that Gumbs was paid by her party for her anti-Rowley testimony.

Though she did not respond to further questions on the issue, she would only say that “Ms Gumbs has always been writing against my Government.”

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