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Public servants cleared
Almost three months after they were suspended, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Angela Siew, Commissioner of State Lands Paula Drakes and Deputy Commissioner of State Lands Bhanmatie Seecharan have all been cleared of any wrongdoing in the allocation of lands to Deputy Commissioner of Police Deodat Dulalchan in Felicity and have been told they can return to work. But two of the employees have opted to proceed on vacation leave and only one has resumed duties at the ministry.
The three were suspended after an internal investigative report into the allocation of the land was conducted.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat had initiated the investigation after he got a letter from farmer Selvin Mahabir, who indicated that he had occupied the land in Felicity for close to 14 years and felt he had a right to continued occupation, but instead it was given to Dulalchan.
Rambharat said the matter “raised a red flag” for him and “caused me to conduct an investigation. It was on the basis of those investigations I submitted the report to the Prime Minister.”
In that report, dated February 1, Rambharat told Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that he had “lost trust in the senior officials.” He said it appeared from the investigation that the approval of the land to Dulalchan “had been fast-tracked and that proper procedures were not adhered to.” The three were subsequently suspended.
The Public Service Commission appointed an investigator to probe the matter and after an almost month-long probe which involved reviewing documents from the ministry, including the findings of the internal probe and interviewing the three senior officers, determined they were guilty of “no offence” and “had no case to answer.”
A well-placed source close to the three told the T&T Guardian the three senior public officers were happy they had been “exonerated on all of the charges against them,” but felt they were “unfairly targeted, after giving service to this country.”
The source said while they did not get a copy of the report, “the Public Service Commission informed them they had deliberated on the matter and found nothing to implicate the women in wrong-doing.” They were told that having been cleared they should resume duties at the Ministry of Agriculture on May 24 and advised that no further action was contemplated against them.
The T&T Guardian was unable to contact PSC chairman Maureen Manchouk and other commissioners who we contacted referred all questions to her.
A copy of the investigator’s report was sent to Rambharat as the line Minister who initiated the investigation into the trio, the T&T Guardian was told. But Rambharat yesterday denied he had received the report.
“I have not received anything personally,” Rambharat said in response to questions from the Guardian.
Asked whether the findings were sent to Acting Permanent Secretary Farook Hosein, the Minister said, “I have not seen what the acting PS received.”
He admitted, however, that the Acting PS “advised me that the three were told to return to work.” But Rambharat said only Seecharan returned to work last Thursday, while Siew and Drakes proceeded on a month’s leave.
Asked whether he anticipated any issues in working with the trio after expressing a loss of confidence in them, Rambharat said, “My focus has always been to do what I am tasked to do as minister and to work with the staff in the ministry and elsewhere in the public and private sectors.” But he pointed out that the matter into the allocation of the land at Felicity to Dulalchan is “not yet completed.”
Dulalchan, through his Attorney Kiel Tacklalsingh, wrote to Rambharat in March after the minister indicated instructions had been given to terminate his occupation of the lands at Chatoorie Street, Felicity.
Yesterday, Rambharat said the matter is now in the hands of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
DCP happy for officials
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Deodath Dulalchan says he is happy that the three senior public officers in the Ministry of Agriculture suspended over the land which was allocated to him have been cleared and authorised to return to work.
Contacted by the T&T Guardian yesterday, Dulalchan said it was the first he was hearing of the development, “and if that is so that is good news.”
“At least I am happy that these three senior government officials who did nothing wrong are back on the job. I am quite elated to hear that they are in fact back on the job,” Dulalchan said.
Dulalchan, who was on the land tending his fruit trees when contacted by the T&T Guardian, said he had “followed protocol and gave a proposal to the Commissioner of State Lands.” He said he was “granted the licence by the Commissioner of State Lands,” and he was “happy that following an investigation, where it was alleged that these officers would have abused their authority, they were indeed cleared of that. I am quite happy for them.”
As to the legal action initiated against the Agriculture Minister, Dulalchan said he did not want to comment.
“I don’t know whether my legal team is aware of that. I just need to be a little cautious and I would really prefer my legal team comment on this.”
Dulachan said as a police officer he and other officers “continue to work hard and be diligent so the general public can feel comfort and safety.”
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