Three days after the Trinidad Express newspaper published an investigative story with Acting Police Commission (ACP) Irwin Hackshaw being flagged by local banks for suspicious financial transaction, he sanctioned a police raid on the newspaper’s office.
About eight officers of the Financial Intelligence Bureau entered the Express House around 4.30 pm yesterday. The officers had a warrant to search the office of Editor-in-Chief Omatie Lyder. Around 5 pm, they were allowed to enter her office, as Guardian Media was told Lyder was not in the building. The Express’ lawyers were on hand during the search. The officers left around 6.30 pm and declined to speak to reporters outside of the building.
When Guardian Media contacted Police Commissioner Gary Griffith yesterday said he was not in the country and therefore would not have authorised any action.
The person to give those orders, he said, would be the Acting Commissioner Hackshaw.
“You have seen how I operate, while I sit in the (Commissioner’s) chair, at no one time would there ever be any abuse of power. Right now I am out of the country, I am not aware in any form of fashion of the action that would have been taken. As much as I know is what I have read on social media,” Griffith said.
When he was asked if Hackshaw giving the order to search Lyder’s officer when he was the subject of the article could be an abuse of power, Griffith said, “The decision on actions taken has to be dealt with and discussed by the person who sits in that chair. Right now I am not sitting in the chair so I can’t speak for any decision that has been made.”
Last night, National Security Minister Stuart Young sent out a statement about the search, saying he was not provided with any information on this action by the TTPS nor was he briefed on it.
“I believe in the protection of the freedom of the press as well as the principle of media responsibility and would not condone a breach of either of these two principles,” Young wrote.
He said he is awaiting more information on this development.
Meanwhile, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) says it is alarmed by the police search on the media house.
MATT president Sheila Rampersad told Guardian Media, “MATT is alarmed at this development, journalists in receipt of information about wrongdoing cannot be intimidated by the police to reveal their sources.”
Rampersad said this action by police demonstrates the urgency for adequate whistleblower legislation.
“We call on the Police Service Commission to insist upon restraint by the TTPS whose members are named in the Express investigation,” she added.