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Birds were a plain sign

Ex-PM's guard talks of knowing something bad would happen:

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Former Special Branch police officer Kenrick Thong, who was part of former prime minister Arthur NR Robinson's personal security detail, knew on July 27, 1990, that "something terrible" was going to happen that day.

How? He got "a sign".

"From whom?" chairman of the commissioner of enquiry Sir David Simmons asked, leaning forward.

"Some birds!" Thong replied.

"Birds started to attack the official Prime Minister's car," he explained, as Sir David Simmons looked perplexed. "Plenty birds! It was a plain sign. Prophecy." Thong added.

Asked by Avory Sinanan, SC, lead attorney for the commission at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Port of Spain, what kind of birds were they, Thong said crows. He, however, conceded there were many more tangible signs something was amiss with the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen.

The Special Branch knew they were training around the Queen's Park Savannah and up Lady Chancellor in army garb.

"You got the impression that they were training for something in particular?" Simmons asked.

"Yes, but we didn't know when it would happen," Thong answered.

Thong said there was "tension in the air that something was going to happen, and his colleagues in the Special Branch felt that way, too.

Asked whether he did not draw this to the attention of his superiors, he said: "It was plain to see that everybody knew."

Thong, who lost his right leg during the storming of the Parliament chamber by the Muslimeen insurgents, was standing by the official car when they struck. He said he decided to fire because the Muslimeen were firing at the Red House.

He hid by a vault close to the rotunda, but got shot by a bullet discharged by a man "who was shooting indiscriminately" as he entered the building through the Prime Minister's private entrance.

Injured, Thong took off his shirt jack and used it to band his leg, and he dragged himself on his bottom to the southern side of the Red House and hid under the stairs.

Eventually, he was rescued by two officers from the Guard and Emergency Branch. He was handed over to a civilian, who in turn put him into a private car which took him to the Port of Spain General Hospital.

He lost consciousness shortly after reaching the hospital and when he awoke, he realised his leg was amputated.

Thong said through the assistance of the late Selwyn Richardson, former attorney general in the National Alliance for Reconstruction administration, he was sent to Venezuela to have a prosthetic leg fitted at the expense of the State.

He said he also received $126,000 in compensation in 1996 (while the United National Congress was in power) for the injuries he sustained.

He had also sustained gunshot injuries to the chest and left ear.

Asked by Simmons how come he was the only policeman to receive compensation, Thong said,he pressured the members of the government.

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