Friday, March 14, 2014

1990 coup report goes to parliament Friday

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar looks at the report in the presence of members of the National Security Council (NSC) at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Thursday. OPM Photo
The report of the Commission of Enquiry that investigated the circumstances surrounding the 1990 attempted coup in Trinidad and Tobago will be laid in Parliament on Friday.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar received a copy of the report Thursday and discussed it at Thursday's meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). She advised members that she would be laying the report at the regular sitting of the House of Representatives Friday.

In 2011, Persad-Bissessar recommended the appointment of the enquiry into the failed coup, which resulted in the shooting of then Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson and the deaths of 24 persons.

The commission was chaired by Sir David Simmons and included Sir Richard Cheltenham, Dr Haffizool Ali, Dr Eastlyn Mc Kenzie and Diana Mahabir-Wyatt.

On July 27, 1990 the leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, Yasin Abu Bakr, led an uprising that simultaneously stormed the Parliament and the state television station, ttt. At the television station Bakr announced that his group had overthrown the government.

A few days later the crisis ended when a deal was made for the release of hostages and the surrender of the coup plotters, who were subsequently tried and convicted. However on appeal Bakr and 113 members of his group were granted amnesty.

Bakr refused to testify before the enquiry and even suggested that he should be paid for his testimony. The commission moved to have charges laid against Bakr but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) refused to charge Bakr.

Roger Gaspard wrote the commission's secretary, Larraine Lutchmedial, in January last year saying it would be "inadvisable, if not punitive" for him to lay charges against Bakr under Section 16 of the Commission of Enquiry Act.

That section of the act empowers the DPP to take action against anyone refusing to obey a summons to attend the Commission.

In the letter dated January 29, 2013, Gaspard said: "I am of the view that given that the refusal of the witness to attend the hearing of the commission or to offer any 'sufficient cause' for doing so, despite being granted additional time to so do, is a matter that the commission should properly deal with in the maintenance of its own authority and protection of its proceedings; the powers of the commission granted under the (Commission of Enquiry) Act being akin to that of a High Court."

The DPP argued that if he were to take action against Bakr, the coup leader would use this as a basis for a stay in his retrial for sedition and incitement to demand with menaces, which is likely to be fixed for trial in 2013.

Gaspard said in that trial, issues of Bakr's involvement in the 1990 attempted coup are likely "(as in the previous trial) to form the basis of an application, by the prosecution, to admit 'bad character' evidence of the accused".

Gaspard won't charge Bakr for failure to testify at coup probe

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai