He told Newsday, “It’s a good first step. I don’t know the terms of reference. I congratulate the People’s Partnership Government for fulfilling one of their campaign promises.”
Toney was in the House of Representatives on July 27, 1990, and was making a contribution to the debate when insurgents stormed the Parliament Chamber.
“Who is your leader?” were his famous words, which many mistakenly believe Toney said to the insurgents. He was in fact addressing PNM Opposition MPs Morris Marshall and Muriel Donawa-McDavidson, two of the party’s only three MPs, during his contribution. Marshall and Donawa-McDavidson are now deceased. Then Opposition Leader Patrick Manning was not in the House at the time the insurgents took members hostage.
COP leader Winston Dookeran, who was Acting Prime Minister during the attempted coup, while former Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson was a hostage, was unavailable for comment, being tied up in back-to-back meetings all of yesterday evening.
Leader of the Opposition and PNM leader, Dr Keith Rowley, however, keenly welcomed news of the commission of inquiry.
Rowley told Newsday, “When it happened I was out of the country. It has always been a source of wonderment to me that the government of the day, that had been assailed by insurgents, never saw it fit to have an investigation. I have always maintained that it should have been investigated.”
He said this investigation is occurring 20 years after the attempted coup, during which time some information would have faded and become unavailable. “It is something required if only anecdotally, to find out what went wrong and to bring closure to the people involved one way or another.” He said there are benefits to having an inquiry, although these are reduced by the passage of time. “I hope it would not drag on like some never-ending inquiry. It should be sharp and clear.”
Has the PNM changed its mind on an inquiry?
Rowley said the PNM has not had a position on the inquiry, but that views were simply expressed by the PNM political leader. He noted his views as PNM leader in supporting the inquiry were different to those of his predecessor, former PNM leader Patrick Manning, who had opposed any inquiry. “Three years ago I said publicly that I found it astounding that something like this could happen without an inquiry.”
Rowley said past governments of many political hues had failed to hold an inquiry, including the NAR government, two UNC governments and PNM governments.
“After the July 1990 attempted coup, the NAR regained control and was in power until December 1991. That is when an inquiry should have taken place — immediately.”
A prompt inquiry, he said, would have revealed which protective services officers had been at fault for not doing their duty.