The PNM, led by San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning, suffered a major defeat in the general election of May 24, winning just 12 of the 41 constituencies.
“One cannot escape the fact that these disclosures from the Prime Minister will certainly have an adverse effect on the party,” Ferreira said yesterday in a telephone interview. “While the party is not responsible, it puts them in a defensive position at a time when we could least afford to.”
During Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Persad-Bissessar claimed in a detailed statement that an intricate wiretapping surveillance network had been set up by the PNM to monitor the private conversations of prominent citizens in various spheres of national life. The exercise was conducted by the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA).
Persons allegedly monitored included President George Maxwell Richards, former Chief Justice Sat Sharma, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and former Police Commissioner James Philbert.
Current Government MPs, trade unionists, media practitioners and religious leaders were also targeted, Persad-Bissessar said.
Rowley has since distanced himself from the scandal. Ferreira said party members will undoubtedly be concerned about the disclosures and its impact on the party’s development.
“It must be a source of serious concern for party members who have been around from the inception of the PNM over 53 years ago – a party that has seen the transition of the country through colonialism, independence and republicanism and conducted its business in opposition and in government in an open and democratic manner,” he said, adding that the PNM was the only party that had an annual convention.
He said, however, that the PM’s revelations in the Parliament was a “complete contradiction” of the principles established by the PNM that “freedom of expression and the right to privacy will and must prevail at all times.”
“It is, therefore, not only very disappointing and embarrassing that our party, after 53 years, should find itself in a position in which a former leader has attempted to conduct the business of government in a manner that has brought the party into disrepute,” Ferreira said.
Saying the PNM should not be held accountable for the “irresponsible and illegal action” of its leader, Ferreira said he was convinced that “our party can and will redeem itself”.
Former PNM chairman Conrad Enill said the disclosures should not affect the party. “The issue, as I understand it, is one between the Prime Minister and national security. The party does not factor into that. It is not a party issue,” he said.