Persad-Bissessar is reported to be concerned about the threat to her life and yesterday UNC chairman Jack Warner, speaking on her behalf, said, “I am not taking any threats lightly but the UNC has its own security and will provide the candidates and supporters with that security.
“One should not be dismissive of any threat and it is not surprising that this comes two days after an attempt was made to disrupt a UNC meeting,” he said.
Special Branch sources confirmed last night that special attention is being paid to the UNC leader given the serious nature of the report.
The news of the death threat on Persad-Bissessar’s life surfaced hours after an assault on PNM candidate for Arouca/Maloney Alicia Hospedales who was doused with red paint by a man during a walkabout in Bon Air, Arouca late Tuesday afternoon. Hospedales, who was treated at hospital and discharged, resumed walkabouts in the constituency yesterday.
And even before this incident, a UNC meeting for St Joseph candidate, former High Court judge Herbert Volney was interrupted by a group of protesters although there was no act of violence.
Police are treating each matter seriously and in the case of Persad-Bissessar she is expected to be assigned a police security detail once she agrees to an offer from Special Branch.
Police sources said that at about 10 am yesterday, a man telephoned the UNC headquarters at Rienzi Complex, Couva and asked for acting general secretary Dave Tancoo.
The man identified himself as an officer from the St Joseph Police Station and reportedly said to Tancoo, “There is a $5 million contract out for the assassination of Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar and I know of three persons who have accepted this.”
Tancoo asked the man to identify himself but the caller only said he was an officer assigned to the St Joseph Police Station. After the man hung up, Tancoo contacted UNC candidate for Fyzabad Chandresh Sharma who then telephoned the office of Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of South/Central John King and told him about the alleged death threat.
King called Tancoo and informed him that arrangements were being put in place to have a statement taken from him. Special Branch officer Sgt Maharaj was assigned to go to Rienzi Complex where he interviewed Tancoo who said he felt the threat seemed credible. Tancoo declined to comment on the report when contacted by Newsday.
King however confirmed he was contacted by Sharma about the ominous call.
King said he informed Sharma that the police had previously written Persad-Bissessar asking if she required a police escort and protection during the election campaign. He said it was a courtesy the police offered to the leader of the main opposition party but he understood that Persad-Bissessar had declined the offer.
King said the police cannot impose a security detail on the UNC leader but they will make another offer to her in the wake of the death threat.
He also confirmed he spoke with Tancoo and later contacted the head of Special Branch who made the arrangements to have Tancoo interviewed.
“We take all threats seriously and the matter is now in the hands of Special Branch,” said Tancoo. He maintained that a security detail for Persad-Bissessar was still available to her if she required it. Newsday later learned that the police planned to provide security to Persad-Bissessar even if she did not agree to it.
Persad-Bissessar, who had meetings with Warner and party officials yesterday after returning from Tobago where she took part in a TOP public meeting on Tuesday night, was unavailable for comment as she was preparing for last night’s meeting in San Fernando.
There was a large contingent of officers on duty at the San Fernando meeting which took place at the Harris Promenade, adjacent to the San Fernando Police Station.
After the intrusion by protesters at the UNC meeting in St Joseph on Monday, the police are expected to increase the manpower at all political meetings.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Gilbert Reyes told Newsday senior superintendents of all divisions were also instructed to ensure that candidates receive protection while out campaigning. Reyes pointed out that candidates will be advised accordingly. Reyes said he took the decision following public concern over what transpired at the UNC St Joseph meeting on Monday. “We want to ask our citizens to desist from this kind of behaviour and let us have a clean and safe election.”