Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley Saturday denied allegations of sexual harassment saying he had put the matter in the hands of his lawyers.

Rowley said that the allegations made by the Trinidad Express investigative journalist Anika Gumbs were an “outrageous and shocking conspiracy” to slander him.

He said he had since referred the matter to his attorneys, Farris Al Rawi and Michael Quamina, who told a news conference Saturday that their client “categorically denied the allegations made by Miss Gumbs and that her letter of resignation was aimed more at causing damage”.

Gumbs resigned on Friday after claiming that she was “mentally scarred” and “traumatised” by “an unfortunate experience” with Rowley.

In her resignation letter dated August 7, Gumbs stated that during a visit to Rowley’s home in Diego Martin, on April 20 to pursue a story she was “astonished” to see he was bareback.

She also claimed that she had informed Rowley that she had received prank calls and “to her shock and surprise,” Rowley said: “Would you hire me to be your bodyguard outside your bedroom?

She also indicated that on a previous visit to Rowley’s home on April 9, he touched her on her back and asked if she had a tattoo of a map on it. She said she told him that the “tattoo on my back was not a map but a butterfly”. She said Rowley asked her the meaning of the butterfly tattoo, and she replied: “It’s all part of being chic.”

She said as Rowley walked her to the front of his home, a bee landed on her dress and Rowley removed it, saying: “Even honey bees landing on you.”

Gumbs said the “entire incident prompted me to shelve all of my work dresses” and she opted instead to wear “only pant suits while on duty”.

Gumbs said in January at the end of another interview with Rowley at his office Rowley asked whether she had recently returned from vacation and when she said she was on leave, Rowley replied: “You are looking rosy.

“On reflection I now feel unable to communicate with Dr Rowley any longer because he betrayed my trust and expectations…The unfortunate experience has left me mentally scarred and traumatised. As a woman I felt frightened and disrespected because of the compromising situation I unexpectedly found myself.

“I remain shocked that Dr Rowley, a political leader, a husband, a father and grandfather, a man I held in such high regard could have acted in such an inappropriate manner and uttered such suggestive words to me,” she wrote, adding that her decision to resign was made easily.

“However, in upholding the highest standards of journalism and to avoid the Express Newspapers from being brought into disrepute, I have opted to sever all ties with the company,” she stated.

But Al Rawi, who is also the PNM public relations officer, questioned the timing of the resignation.

He said the party had evidence of attempts being made to pay people to lie against Rowley in the lead up to the September 7 poll.

Rowley himself has described the Gumbs situation as a continuation of the Vernella (Alleyne-Toppin)’s attempt at slander, a reference to the junior government minister telling Parliament earlier this year that Rowley was born as a result of a rape.

“This young girl was then raped by her father’s best friend. The product today is the aspirant to lofty office,” Alleyne-Toppin said during a debate of no confidence against Rowley in March, adding, “Mr Speaker, can you imagine this mother carrying this pain and shame for nine months and the impact it had on the unborn child?”

Rowley said that Gumbs statement and Alleyne-Toppin remarks “are both geared towards the same objective, to make me unpalatable to the electorate”.

But he said he believed that the good sensible people would see this charge for what it is.

“These are acts of desperation…The Vernella slander has failed and so (you) try and try again”.

Al Rawi said that the statement by Gumbs is the latest in the “No Rowley” campaign by the coalition People’ Partnership, headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

(www.trinidadexpress.com)