Trinidad and Tobago politics took an unusually bizarre
turn on Friday as two Cabinet Ministers called the media
to deny allegations that they took bribes and to present
an affidavit by their accuser repudiating his charges.
In a handwritten letter to Prime Minister Patrick Manning,
in the Sunday Guardian
two weeks ago, Dansam Dhansook said he had paid bribes to
Eric Williams and Franklin Khan, Ministers of Energy and
of Works and Transport respectively.
Mr Dhansook, a PNM councillor, was to be the main attraction
at another media event also on Friday, staged by an advertising
agency, at which he had been scripted to withdraw his bribery
He did not show up. The dramatic high point at which, with
cameras rolling, he would confess his sin of bearing false
witness against party comrades and friends (and take questions),
The country was left with Mr Dhansooks July 2004 affidavit
statement, I hereby unequivocally withdraw each and
every such allegation.
His letter had apparently been written five months before.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar read the letter in Parliament, and
the UNC has since demanded both ministers resign and that
Mr Dhansook receive police protection.
Will the volatile Mr Dhansook also denounce his affidavit
sworn nine months ago?
This intriguing question remains, even as his original letter
to the Prime Minister, with copies of cheques to Mr Khan
enclosed, remains in play. Mr Manning said he had referred
it to the Integrity Commission.
This response is controversial. Sending it to the Integrity
Commission is better than doing nothing. Doubt remains,
however, about that bodys power and capacity to do
what the Prime Minister asked of it.
Common-sense understanding of bribe-taking as criminal wrongdoing
would lead the public to expect investigators properly endowed
with police powers and skills to be put on the case. As
far as is known, this has not happened.
Thus, the matter has not been put to rest, despite the denials
in Parliament by Mr Williams and later by both ministers.
Mr Dhansooks failure to oblige made a fiasco of the
supporting event planned for the Crowne Plaza. The hope
was that the accuser would recant, declare that his doing
so was voluntary, apologise for the trouble his lie caused
and, crucially, say why he did it.
In short, the hope was he would in person endorse and amplify
the July 2004 affidavit produced on Friday in the ministers
The affidavit says Mr Dhansook had made his earlier claim
to have bribed Mr Khan with $120,000 and Mr Williams with
$75,000 because he became totally frustrated at the
unwillingness of Minister Khan to help.
Mr Khan confirms that Mr Dhansook and he had long been friends
and partners in business, though the former evidently enjoyed
better success. Yes, Mr Khan had received money from Mr
Dhansook, but the funds represented repayment of a loan,
which had been properly reported as such to the Integrity
Though he is chairman of the PNM and among the highest-profile
Cabinet Ministers, the Government and the ruling party have
not been conspicuously at his side at this moment of public
discomfort. Supporters demonstrating outside the Red House
on Friday were defending only Mr Williams.
Still, Mr Khan is not without advantages as he seeks to
protect himself from political and other damage spilling
over from his private business involvements before he became
It could have been far worse. One former minister, Brian
Kuei Tung, has been facing a multitude of criminal charges
arising from his own pre-Government business dealings.