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Irfan Ali- Ramjattan “haul you ass” quarrel: GT&T does not record phone calls

Housing Minister, Irfan Ali

In the wake of concerns by the Alliance For Change (AFC) that its telephones are being bugged and conversation recorded, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) on Monday said it does not record phone talk.

GT&T’s CEO, Radha Krishna Sharma said the phone company has not been asked by any government agency to provide a recording of a conversation between AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan and the Secretary to the Housing Minister. If asked, the phone company would advise that is impossible,  said Sharma.

“The reality of is it that we don’t tape conversations. That’s not our policy, that’s not our procedures or protocols so even if such a request is made we will not be in a position to offer taped conversation of any sort because we don’t do it,” Sharma told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Minister Irfan Ali has been quoted by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying that steps would be taken to ask the phone company to provide a recording of the conversation. “He was loud and abusive and slammed the phone down. We are hoping to request GT&T to get a copy of the recording…This is a man who talks about being upright and morally straight and this is how he treats an ordinary public servant, who is basically doing her duty, I find this to be disgusting, lawless and an abuse of power.”

The GT&T CEO said the most the phone company could provide were copies of call-logs through a “very laid out” procedure.

Apart from it being impossible to record millions of telephone conversations annually, Sharma said the phone company placed a very high value on the privacy of its subscribers.  “Fundamentally, we have an obligation to all our subscribers that their privacy is retained and you just think of it you have mechanism whereby you sit and listen to conversations, it breaches that very fundamental aspect of our relationship,” he said.

The Interception of Communications Act empowers a judge to order a phone company to wiretap the phones of persons suspected of being involved in criminal activities.

The reaction by the phone company’s boss came moments after the AFC said it was it was obvious, from Minister Ali’s definitive remark, that he was aware that GT&T records telephone conversations either of the Ministry of Housing or Mr. Ramjattan’s phone.

“By his own, bold admission, Minister Ali has told the nation that either his ministry’s phones are tapped or Mr. Ramjattan’s phone is tapped (or both). The AFC demands that Minister Ali provide to the nation full disclosure of all information he is privy to in this regard,” the AFC said in a statement.

But in a statement issued later Monday, the Housing Minister denied knowlegde of phones belonging to the AFC Leader or his ministry being bugged. “As Housing and Water Minister, I am unaware that the government has instructed the tapping of Ramjattan’s phone or those belong to the Ministry. Additionally, the AFC’s attempt to draw extraneous matters in relation to the wiretapping of phones, legality of the same and other security issues has not escaped my attention.”

The AFC demanded that the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration disclose to Guyanese a full list of all political officials whose phones are tapped, the reasons proffered for such, who requested such tapping, who ordered such tapping and what period such phones have been tapped. That party also warned Guyanese to take the necessary precautions until there is full disclosure from the PPP government on “this sinister development.” “The AFC advises the public to be especially cautious in telephone engagements with the Ministry of Housing since, by the admission of the Minister, that ministry’s phones could be tapped and all conversations recorded,” the AFC added.

GINA reported that the Housing Minister had directed the secretary to call Ramjattan to remind him of an invitation that was sent earlier via email; to a press briefing at his Brickdam Office in response to issues that he (Ramjattan)had raised in a Kaieteur News article.
Minister Ali said that the AFC Leader has always complained about lack of transparency and public access to what goes on at the Ministry and as such, he sought to provide an opportunity for the Member of Parliament to openly ventilate his concerns in front of media operatives.
“I want all the corruption agencies and human rights’ bodies who speak about public accountability to understand this… his response was, ‘how can that chap demand me to come to his press conference, tell him to haul his ass,” Minister Ali stated.