Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Carmona, Kamla receive report

A 1,324-page report of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 Coup was yesterday presented to President Anthony Carmona at his St Ann’s, office by chairman of the Commission of Enquiry Sir David Simmons QC.

Simmons said a total of 44 recommendations were made within the 12 chapters of the report, with 33 of them being confined to Chapter 12 which is a 100 page-long confidential document bound in red because of the sensitive information it contains on national security issues. 

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who also received a copy of the report yesterday intends to table it today in Parliament.

Simmons who was accompanied by the other members of the Commission, Sir Richard Cheltenham QC (deputy chairman), Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Dr Eastlyn McKenzie and Dr Hafizool Ali Mohammed, spoke generally on the contents of the report prior to physically handing over the four volumes to Carmona. But he said it would be inappropriate for him to discuss any of the findings or recommendations.

“There are 12 chapters--- chapter 12 which is bound in red is confidential. That contains our findings, our observations, our recommendations on matters which may affect national security interest and so we thought it best to reduce our considerations to a separate volume.

“The procedure is that we report to His Excellency as we have done, he will I am sure send the report to the Prime Minister (Kamla Persad- Bissessar) and the Cabinet for executive action. Thereafter they will decide what will be published and when it will be published and so on.” 

Asked whether Yasin Abu Bakr’s failure to appear before the commission hindered its work, Simmons said although the Commission of Enquiry Act needs to be modernised because there are loopholes in it—as was evident in both this Enquiry and the CLICO Enquiry, Bakr’s non appearance did not prevent them from making the requisite findings.

However, he did admit that two logistical issues prevented them from moving a bit more quickly; the fact that the Enquiry ran simultaneously with the CLICO Enquiry meant there were not enough cameras and the personnel to serve both at the same time and the fact that all of the commissioners live at different geographical locations and are all very busy professionals.

He also said, tracking the evidence of 93 witnesses over 13,000 pages of transcript was not the easiest task that he has ever had, but they got it done.

Simmons pointed out that the commission found it both appropriate and convenient to devote separate chapters to each of the terms of reference. He said there was some overlap in the terms of reference but they did try to reduce repetition but it was not possible to present a coherent report without some cross referencing. 

He also thanked Carmona for granting the commission an extension of time to present the report after concluding the public hearing in September last year.

“We had hoped to be able to meet in January but that was not possible because of prior commitments on the part of some of the commissioners. So we deemed it appropriate since we could not submit the report on 24 January to seek His Excellency’s indulgence to grant an extension,” he said.

Simmons also publicly acknowledged the support of the four other commissioners and the commission’s secretary, Laraine Lutchmedial who he said made sacrifices toward completing the report.

“It was not easy, it could not be easy trying to investigate matters that took place 22 years ago. Fortunately a number of key persons who were involved who were connected to the attempted coup in 1990 and many persons had given affidavit evidence in several cases that were available and were of great assistance to us. So, that a task that looked rather daunting on the 6, September 2010 when we were appointed, turned out not to be as challenging as we first thought,” he added.  

Carmona said he looks forward to perusing and digesting the report comprehensively, all 13,000 pages of it. He added that just like Lutchmedial, who was praised for her hard work by Simmons, he was also committed to Trinidad and Tobago.

“Our commitment is neither transient or convenient so I feel really proud to speak in such glowing terms of a senior public servant of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He added the fact that the commission comprised of regional professionals, worked so well is an indication of what is possible when the region engages in Caribbean integration beyond just the philosophy of the concept.  

Contents of the Report: 

* Volume I is the statement of the commission’s proceedings as well as findings, conclusions, observations and recommendations in respect of the several chapters. 

*Volume II covered chapters Two to Seven of the report: 

Chapter Two looked at the nature, extent and impact. 

Chapter Three covered the causes of the attempted coup and any economic, political, social, historical and other factors that may have contributed to the attempted coup and the consequences of those factors.

Chapter Four investigates and reports on the underlying purpose and extent of and the intention behind the plot into the attempted coup.

 Chapter Five deals with the criminal acts and omissions including looting which were committed in connection with the attempted coup and the motives and objectives of the perpetrators  of such acts and the prosecution of persons who committed criminal acts.

Chapter Six focuses on persons, locally, regionally and internationally who may have been involved in the coup and the extent to which they were involved. 

Chapter Seven looks at any national security deficiencies and the extent to which it was possible to prevent the attempted coup.  

*Volume III covers Chapters Eight to 11. 

Chapter Eight deals with the response and performance of the government, the Defence force, the protective services and other services, the foreign services and the media during and after the attempted coup. 

Chapter Nine deals with all matters pertaining to the negotiation, preparation and execution of the amnesty and negotiation of the terms of surrender. 

Chapter 10 looks at the continuing propensity for criminal activity arising from the attempted coup and the correlation if any between the attempted coup and the trafficking supplying possession of illegal drugs and arms and ammunition.

Chapter 11 makes recommendations to ensure that victims of the attempted coup and the society as a whole are satisfied that their pains, loss, sufferings have been acknowledged with a view to fostering closure of the events surrounding the attempted coup and with a view to the promotion of healing within the society.  

*Volume IV Chapter 12 is confidential