T&T Senator quits after video leaked online in extortion plot

(Trinidad Guardian) Government is expected to announce a replacement in the Senate today for People’s National Movement Government Senator Hafeez Ali, who resigned his post last Friday, PNM officials have confirmed.

This occurred following a controversial social media video of a reportedly sexually explicit nature which emerged as part of a blackmail/extortion plot recently.

Word of Ali’s resignation was confirmed yesterday by a number of highly placed government officials, including members of the ruling PNM executive.

Leader of the Government’s Senate business Franklin Khan didn’t respond to phone calls, emails or texted queries on the matter yesterday.

Also contacted, Ali declined comment.

But sources close to Ali confirmed that he resigned last Friday after he reported the issue of the online video to the Fraud Squad as a case of alleged extortion/blackmail. They told the T&T Guardian that he was the subject of an alleged extortion attempt by a person, hence the leaking of the video. The video has since been making the rounds, including in opposition and government circles.

Ali reportedly stepped down over fears that a combination of his public office and the furore which would develop when the information hit mainstream media would result in a backlash for his family.

A spokesman yesterday confirmed Ali resigned of his own volition last Friday after the video issue emerged last week and he “wasn’t fired.” It was also confirmed he’d had talks with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, which preceded the resignation.

Another official said the matter had reached the political directorate and explained that once there, he’d have had to do what was “expected” (resign).

Rowley was in Tobago yesterday and was unavailable to speak on the matter. The PM will be addressing a community meeting in St Joseph tonight.

Ali is listed by the PNM’s websites as a businessman, contractor and a pilot. It also states that Ali, 43, joined the party in 2003 and served over that time until 2006 as treasurer of the Barataria/San Juan constituency. He was also operations manager for the 2007 and 2010 general election campaigns in that seat.

Flashback April 2015: PNM candidate for Barataria/San Juan, Hafeez Ali (left), is embraced by a constituency executive member after he was selected by the screening committee at Balisier House.
Flashback April 2015: PNM candidate for Barataria/San Juan, Hafeez Ali (left), is embraced by a constituency executive member after he was selected by the screening committee at Balisier House.

He was selected last year by the PNM’s screening committee headed by Rowley for the Barataria-San Juan seat in the September 7 general election campaign.

More than one government official yesterday confirmed that Ali’s replacement may not be PNM deputy leader Rohan Sinanan (who was initially tipped to replace him early yesterday), since Sinanan is already acting in the Senate for Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus. They said an announcement to revoke his appointment is expected to be made soon.

Ali, who is from Don Miguel Road, San Juan, lost to United National Congress incumbent Dr Fuad Khan, though their fight had made that seat one of two of the toughest-fought constituencies in that election. Khan held on to the seat with 8,722 votes, only 540 more than Ali. The other closely fought constituency was Moruga/Tableland, won by the PNM.

Ali was one of several unsuccessful PNM candidates who were given Parliament positions; among them Clarence Rambharat (now Agriculture Minister), Avinash Singh (parliamentary secretary-Agriculture) and Sarah Budhu (a senator).

Following his general election defeat, Ali was appointed a government senator on September 23, 2015, at the start of the 11th Parliament, sitting half-way down the Government front bench.

His maiden contribution was to the 2016 budget debate in October 2015.

Ali is also listed on the PNM’s site as a teacher and principal at Nur E Islam mosque for the period 1999 to 2002 and boasts a sporting background with relatives in the field such as Fazeer Mohammed, a popular regional cricket commentator and talk show host, and Tamjeed Ali.

 

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