Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar yesterday said, “For several years, particularly as we approach the anniversary of this incident, calls have been made by a generous percentage of our population for such an investigation.”
Tuesday will mark the 20th anniversary of the attempted coup of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen. Advancing other reasons for the inquiry, as she addressed the post-Cabinet media briefing, Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Persad-Bissessar said, “It is also well recognised that there were varying degrees of trauma experienced by citizens in different institutions directly and indirectly.”
The inquiry would also bring psychological relief from the results.
“It is more important, in my respectful view, for us to determine what went wrong. How this could have happened, that so much havoc was wreaked on this country and so many lives lost, an attack on the seat of democracy, the Parliament. We must know what happened? How it happened? Why it happened? To prevent this from happening again or to take steps to avoid such a recurrence.”
Persad-Bissessar said it was during the attempted coup that firearms were brought into the country. “Today we are plagued with a proliferation of arms and firearms,” she said.
(Last week, Persad-Bissessar met with Chief of UN Office of Disarmament and Affairs, Agnes Marcaillou to get assistance in purchasing a kiln costing TT$3 million which will be used to destroy illicit weapons.)
“We do know most of the crimes being perpetrated, especially the murders, entail the use of firearms. To assist in this regard we are giving 75 additional vehicles to the police and, because of what has happened so many years ago, we will launch this commission of inquiry.”
During the question and answer session, Persad-Bissessar said Government was in the process of identifying persons to serve on the commission of inquiry but did not want to disclose any names until talks took place with them. She said the inquiry will be public.
Persad-Bissessar said if the inquiry found evidence of wrong doing it will be considered but it depended on what the enquiry brought out. “We will have to consider things like statute barred offences, certainly murder is not a statute-barred offence.”
She stressed that whatever was found “no one is above the law.”
“Therefore if there is evidence of wrongdoing, where ever it may be, that will have to be addressed by the courts of law.”
Government hoped to have the inquiry as soon as possible.
She repeated the announcement made by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, on Wednesday night, on the sale of land belonging to the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen. This is being done to recover $32 million in damages awarded to the State last September for the attempted coup.
Persad-Bissessar said advertisements will appear in the newspapers on July 27 for the auction of land. She said she was unfazed by the death threat message which was given to an attorney whom she has worked with in the past.
“Because of the wording, it would appear the allegation points to persons who may have been associated with the lands and therefore the sale of the lands.”
Asked if as head of the National Security Council, she expected a backlash from the sale of the land and the inquiry, Persad-Bissessar’s response was “in life you expect anything.”
She said in taking the job of Prime Minister she stopped being afraid.
“I am not afraid we will do our duty. We will do what we have to do.”
She told the media that the security forces have been on alert and are on alert.