More questions in T&T over intelligence agency

(Trinidad Guardian) This country’s new lead national security agency, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), is expected to be in operational mode sometime next year.

The unit, which has been touted by Government as being an elite intelligence gathering agency, lacks legislative framework and is still unable to function. Plans are afoot to merge the now defunct Security Intelligence Agency (SIA), which has no legal framework; and the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), which is currently undergoing structural change, with other intelligence networks to form the NIA.

Despite promises that the NIA will become functional soon, several of the sensitive managerial positions have already been filled. The SSA is currently being led by Bisnath Maharaj, who assumed the post in April this year, taking over from Col Albert Griffith. Griffith’s one-year contract was not renewed. Maharaj, a police officer, was seconded to the SSA.

Surajdeen Persad

Sources say the appointment of acting Assistant Com-missioner of Police (ACP) Surajdeen Persad to the post of Director of Security Intelligence with the SSA was approved by Cabinet recently. Persad is currently on 22 months vacation leave from the T&T Police Service and was last assigned to Com-munity Relations. Prior to this, he served as the second in command at Special Branch.
Sources say Carlton Dennie has been elevated to the position of Director of Intercept. Dennie previously held the position of Assistant Deputy Director of Intelligence. Cabinet has also approved that NIA will be headed by a Director General with two deputy directors offering assistance, sources confirmed. The positions of Director of Criminal Intelli-gence, Director Corporate Services and Director Com-munication and Internet are yet to be filled.

CoP confirms Persad is on vacation
However, it is the appointment of Persad which is raising eyebrows. Many are questioning who gave Persad permission to be employed at the SSA while on vacation from the police service and what criteria were used to interview people for the post. Contacted for a comment, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams confirmed that Persad was on vacation.

“Obviously if he is on vacation, he will be getting paid,” Williams said. Asked about Persad’s status at the SSA while still being employed with the T&T Police Service Williams said: “The SSA is an intelligence unit and I try not to speak on them. You will have to contact them. I try not to interfere with matters involving the SSA.”

Questioned whether he (Williams) gave authorisation for Persad to take up the position at SSA, Williams said he chose not to comment on the issue. Efforts to contact Persad were unsuccessful as calls to his cell phone went unanswered.

In January 2011, the SIA was headed by Reshmi Ramnarine but her appointment was short-lived following her resignation from the top post.

Ramnarine, 31, was touted to have in her possession a Bsc in Information Technology from the University of the West Indies, and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and several government ministers said part of the reason she was appointed as SIA director was due to her qualifications. It was later learnt that such qualifications were falsified.

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