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Entire ‘1990’ report to be available to public

By Kim Boodram

“SECRETS” will not be allowed to mar public perception of the eagerly-awaited report from the commission of enquiry into the attempted coup of 1990, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday, after declaring her decision to declassify a chapter marked as “confidential” by the commission. 

The report, which was formally laid in Parliament yesterday and will be printed as a House Paper, was presented first to President Anthony Carmona on Thursday by the commission, who forwarded it to Persad-Bissessar.

A hefty document comprising four volumes, Chapter 12 of the report—which is contained in the fourth volume—was marked as “confidential” by the commission.

Persad-Bissessar said a decision has been taken to make the closed chapter available for all to see.

“The report contains four volumes and Chapter 12 contained in Volume 4 was deemed confidential and we respect the commission for this,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“But after due delibe­ration at the NSC (National Security Council), the Government agreed that we would waive confidentiality and place the entire report in the public domain. We did not want the report to be shadowed, there is nothing to hide.”

The commission of enquiry was appointed on September 6, 2010, on the advice of Persad-Bissessar to then acting president Timothy Hamel-Smith.

Persad-Bissessar yesterday congratulated the commission, led by Sir David Simmons and including Sir Richard Lionel Cheltenham, QC, Dr Haffizool Ali Mohammed, Dr Eastlyn McKenzie and Mrs Diana Mahabir-Wyatt.  

The laying of the report was dedicated to former president Arthur NR Robinson, who, then prime minister, was shot in the Red House during the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen’s attempt to overthrow the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government and a threat to whose life was, according to the report, “central” among the intentions of the insurgents.

Persad-Bissessar yesterday entered the Parliament building on the Port of Spain Waterfront a few hours into the sitting, having visi­ted Robinson at St Clair Medical Centre, where he has been hospita­lised.

“The report confirms that a central mission of the insurgency involved the life of Mr Robinson,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“Today, we are saddened that his health has now taken a down turn. He is currently hospitalised and we join in collective prayer for his well-being.”

The Prime Minister said her visit to Robinson was brief, but she informed him the report, which he had “deeply urged” her to establish, had been completed.

Had Robinson as then prime minister been of a different calibre, the outcome of 1990 might have been different, Persad-Bissessar said. “I think that we all recall his unforgettable words, ‘Attack with full force,’” Persad-Bissessar said.

“It is my hope that the publication of this report will bring conside­rable satisfaction and some closure to our former president who withstood the intended humiliation of those days of infamy with remarkable dignity and courage.  

“The strength and resilience he displayed at that time continue even to this day to inspire an entire nation and remain a testimony and a beacon to all of us,” she added.

She also praised the protective services, Defence Force, police officers, soldiers, sailors, fire officers and other arms of the services as “heroes” who saw to it that the situation did not spiral totally out of control.

The report was based on oral and written submissions, and among the terms of  reference extended to the commission was that the document should seek to establish the “causes, nature, extent and impact of the attempted coup”.

The report, which will also be available online in the near future, was also to identify any people or organisations involved in any aspect of the attempted coup.

“Because of what our nation would learn based on this very comprehensive report by the commission of enquiry, it allows us that opportunity to be better prepared now than later,” Persad-Bissessar said.

In its recommendations, the commission noted that at the time of the attempted coup, intelligence-gathering was “loose and haphazard”, that NSC was nonfunctional and that there was need for an “intelligence community” that worked together.

With respect to the formation of bodies such as the Special Anti-Crime Unit, the report stated: “SAUTT was not an organisation that was welcomed by most arms of the security structure because it was seen to be doing things that other people were already doing and there was a perceived duplication of effort.”

And further: “There continued to be the creation of agencies every time there seemed to be a political need to be seen to be doing something but without examining and rationalising what you already had. Every time there was a need to do something, they created something without going to the Police Service.”

Persad-Bissessar, who said her Government must take credit for the creation of the National Operations Centre (NOC), also quoted the report as stating: “No National Security Operations Centre existed in 1990.

“We are of the opinion that such a centre, as a focal point for all arms of the security and intelligence community, would greatly enhance the capability of the State to respond to emergencies. It would provide the ultimate communications platform among the vari­ous security agencies and be the agency to issue national-security alerts when necessary”. 

The commission also noted the absence of a “central emergency plan” and a crisis management centre.

These recommendations are already in the works, Persad-Bissessar said, adding that the Government recently implemented a National Security Alert State, whereby the Alert State is colour-coded and “increases or decreases based on the level of threat”. 

The report, though “stark and graphic”, must also be valued for its educational potential, and Persad-Bissessar said she has asked Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh to have the document “distilled” into the Educational Work Study Programme that can be used at the secondary and tertiary levels.

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