The telephones of 2006 World Cup Soca Warriors footballers Kenwyne Jones, Russell Latapy and Carlos Edwards were wiretapped by the former Patrick Manning-led People’s National Movement (PNM) Administration, National Security Minister Gary Griffith alleged yesterday.
On Wednesday night, Griffith first disclosed that Jones, now a player for English club Stoke City, had been spied on by the previous PNM government when he spoke at a United National Congress (UNC) meeting at Bamboo No 1 on Wednesday, ahead of Monday’s St Joseph bye- election.
When Newsday pressed him yesterday to elaborate on his claims, Griffith further revealed Latapy and Edwards were also spied on.
At the UNC meeting, Griffith made his revelation about Jones’ phones being wiretapped so as to contrast the People’s Partnership Government’s plans for tackling crime to both current PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley’s recent derisory remarks on Colombia and Venezuela, and the Manning regime’s spying on upstanding TT nationals.
Griffith said the former regime’s long-term spying on citizens had dwarfed this Government’s controversial promotion of a junior employee, Reshmi Ramnarine, to head the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA).
“Reshmi was there for three days, but for seven years that PNM intelligence unit was ‘maccoing’, spying on law-abiding citizens,” said Griffith. “Ask them (PNM) that. Why is it that they used intelligence resources to tap, spy, macco? They look at your computer, look at your phone. They have the names of media people, politicians, Kenwyne Jones, tapping their cellphones.”
Making the point that Jones was no gangster, Griffith punned, “The only ‘shot’ I know Kenwyne Jones ever had was at goal. Why is it you (PNM) were tapping Kenwyne Jones for so long?.”
Contacted by Newsday yesterday, Griffith then said the former PNM regime has also spied on two other national footballers, in addition to journalists, businessmen and celebrities. He said, “Kenwyne Jones, Russell Latapy and Carlos Edwards were on a list of names intercepted by the previous administration.”
The trio all played in the Trinidad and Tobago football team that won huge global respect at the 2006 World Cup in Germany for drawing nil-nil with Sweden in their opening match, and then holding England scoreless for 83 minutes, until Peter Crouch’s controversial goal led to a two-nil win for England.
Newsday asked why the footballers had been spied on by the PNM regime?
Griffith replied, “The only reason I can think of is to ascertain the political affiliation of individuals who may have been a political liability to the previous administration. None of them had any criminal involvement.”
The three players mentioned by Griffith are at present all abroad pursuing their footballing interests. Jones plays for Stoke City and Edwards plays for Ipswich Town, both in England, while Latapy is reportedly pursuing a high-level coaching badge in Scotland. Jones, a striker, had played for Stoke, Sunderland, Southampton, Sheffield, all in England, and began in TT with Joe Public and W Connection.
Edwards played as right-wing and/or right-back for Wrexham, Luton Town, Sunderland (and Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan) and now Ipswich Town, starting off in TT playing for Patna United, Queen’s Park and Defence Force.
Latapy played for local, regional and international clubs namely Caledonia AIA (TT); Port Morant United (Jamaica); Académica, Porto and Boavista (Portugal); and Hibernian, Rangers, Dundee United, Falkirk and Edinburgh City (Scotland).
Newsday was unsuccessful in its efforts to contact the three players, and local football and PNM officials yesterday. The People’s Partnership first made revelations of wiretapping under the PNM in 2010.
On Wednesday, Griffith accused Rowley of mouthing the name, “Colombia”, in a derogatory tone of voice and of threatening to have Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) so as to pick a fight with Venezuela. By contrast Griffith boasted of having just concluded cordial bilateral talks with Venezuela on national security issues so as to have a “proper working relationship with the Venezuelan Government”.
He boasted of the just-launched Highway Patrol of the Police Service, and the upcoming visit of Bill Bratton — the former police chief of Los Angeles, New York City and Boston respectively — to inspire local law enforcement, also noting the People’s Partnership is the only government that has ever tackled TT’s gang problem.
Griffith said the PNM Crime Plan was simply the Special Anti-crime Unit of TT (SAUTT) plus Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), but the People’s Partnership runs a National Security Operations Centre to coordinate all law enforcement agencies to work together.
He boasted of hitting criminals by intelligence-gathering, data-acquisition, crime scene investigation and community policing for the public and police to work together, and better cooperation with TT’s allies such as Venezuela and Colombia.