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Carlos John speaks out today

By Ria Taitt, Newsday

Carlos John's promise to bow out of politics raised more questions than answers yesterday.

John is expected to announce today that he would not be standing for re-election. The UNC's strategy committee meets at Rienzi Complex at 2 pm today and John is expected to attend this meeting.

"He will make his position clear and unambiguous," one source close to John said.

John's decision to step down comes in the wake of a June 9 visit to his home by a party of police investigators, which included head of the Anti-Corruption Squad, Supt Maurice Piggott and Canadian forensic accountant Bob Lindquist. John was questioned about a $500,000 cheque he received from UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh which was drawn on the Northern Construction Limited, Airport Project account ten months before John joined the UNC Government.

There was considerable speculation yesterday as to the underlying reasons for John's decision (to leave politics) which appears to be very precipitated.

They said it was strange that John who entered politics by very deliberate choice, would bow out because he was asked questions by the police.

They pointed to Sadiq Baksh who has been interrogated, and to other UNC politicians who have faced the same fate. Ironically, the UNC issued a release drawing reference to this very fact.

In the search for reasons, political observers also speculated that the decision was linked to the Ramesh Maharaj-Basdeo Panday meeting.

John remained incommunicado yesterday, with some of his closest political colleagues unable to reach him.

Among those whom he visited however was Gerald Yetming, who remained tightlipped about John's plans. Among the others who tried to reach him were Jearlean John, Lindsay Gillette, Roodal Moonilal to name a few.

Sources stressed that Prime Minister Patrick Manning shouldn't start to smile yet.

"Carlos will hang in there until the next election," they said.

And John is not leaving the UNC, his colleagues stressed. He would be throwing his support behind whoever is chosen to replace him.

"They love him in St Joseph. He brought a spark, a freshness to the area. He will be missed. But the gap is wide enough, over 1000 votes.

He has done good enough work so it would not affect our electoral chances there," one former minister said.

The friends of the St Joseph MP dismissed reports that he was merely trying to 'grandcharge,' or whip up sympathy.

"He is very serious (about leaving politics)" one colleague stated. "He is not playing games, and he is not making as if".

The UNC meanwhile slammed the Government and raised questions about the Police Service, arguing that the Fraud Squad didn't have to visit "the privacy of Mr John's home.

It could have ascertained the "information" about the cheque "by a simple telephone call, as did the reporter from the (Sunday) newspaper".

John had told Newsday two Fridays ago that he wanted to go on record to stress how "professional" the police team conducted their search.

However the UNC release compared the visit by the team "and the excessive use of force" to the intimidatory tactics used against the teachers at the Arima Secondary School when suspension letters were delivered earlier this year.

Stating that today every financier, or official of the UNC had been targetted by the PNM, the release cited among others Steve Ferguson, who was questioned about voter padding and who is now on a corruption charge; Suzanne Seepersad; Lindsay Gillette who were "publicly embarrassed"; Basdeo Panday "questioned and harassed about a US $50,000 cheque and an alleged house in London; Bill Chaitan and Winston "Gypsy" Peters "charged in respect of dual citizenship"; Chaitan, Adesh Nanan and Kamla Persad-Bissessar "called by the one man Commission of Inquiry into the Biche High School.

It said Harry Partap, Fazal Karim, Ken Emrith, Elvis Goojar and Rudy Moonilal were also questioned.

The UNC noted the number of voter padding arrests, "complete with handcuffs currently before the courts", none of which have been brought to conclusion, suggesting that the intention was merely to "humiliate".

Stating that the police service had traditionally been impartial, the UNC said that under this government it noticed a "new trend" and cited Prime Minister Patrick Manning's call to the Marabella Police Station.

"We can only appeal to members of the police service to be even handed in the pursuit of justice and not unwittingly give the appearance that they are the agents of a repressive regime," the UNC said.

Attorney General Glenda Morean in response to the release said the investigations were started under the UNC government and merely continued by the PNM.

She stressed that all the persons who have been interrogated and charged with offences, had been interrogated and charged as a result of these investigations. She noted that charges had been brought against UNC financiers as a result of the investigations into the Airport.

She said the UNC release should address the bank account in England, and how Oma Panday came to have this money.

The AG added that the "alleged house" referred to in the release was in fact being rented for the Pandays' daughters.

She said Panday has given no explanation on how he has been able to afford to pay the "rent" on the upscale apartment.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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