PM responds to claims made by the President; insists he gave no approval for "secret meeting"

Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 11:30

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is insisting that he gave no prior approval for Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Acting Police Commissioner to meet with President Anthony Carmona.

He also denies that he or his office leaked to the media, correspondence sent by the President.

President Carmona has claimed that the prime minister gave prior approval for the controversial meeting.

"I, as prime minister, feel duty-bound to clarify for the public what has happened yesterday," Dr Rowley said as he began speaking at today's post-Cabinet news conference.

The prime minister told the media that he was in Tobago when he got a call from Minister Dillon, indicating that the President had requested to see the Minister.

"I was surprised and asked the Minister what this was about. He said he did not know anything other than President asked to see him. I thought it was a personal meeting and had something to do with family or something so I told the Minister, 'go ahead and find out," Dr Rowley said.

He said the Minister had to leave the country after the meeting.

He indicated that Minister Dillon called him and indicated that he preferred to discuss what transpired at the meeting face-to-face.

Dr Rowley said that it was only while reading the newspapers the following Sunday, that he realised that a "secret national security meeting" took place.

" I was alarmed, I was concerned. I did nothing. I said nothing because the Minister was out the country," he said.

He said he also received a 30-point piece of correspondence from the President, who indicated that he had acquired the "consent of the attendees" to communicate to the prime minister about what transpired in the meeting.

Dr Rowley said he then sought advice from senior counsel about the Constitutionality of the meeting and sent it to the President.

Minister Dillon, who was also at the news conference, said that his secretary had recieved the call from the Office of the President on August 26th, asking for a meeting.

"My secretary asked about nature of meeting and told it was security-related and I was asked I bring my advisor. I went to see the prime minister. He was not available. I spoke to him on phone. He was concerned about nature of the meeting. I told the prime minister did not know what it was about and he said to go ahead," he said.

Dr Rowley told the media that he did not believe the Minister did anything wrong.

He said he is confident that the document from the President was not leaked because the media would have picked up on a lot more that was contained in it.

The prime minister said he felt it necessary to clear the air today but added: "I do not wish to drag this matter on; I do not wish to engage in any banter with the President."