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FIRE OVER FLYING SQUAD

Rowley calls on Warner, Heerah to resign

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

AS head of the National Security Council, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar must clear the air on claims that there is a "New Flying Squad Investigation Unit" (NFSIU) in operation in the country, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has said.

Former Flying Squad member, retired police inspector Mervyn Cordner, has claimed the infamous police squad was revamped and led by him.

Cordner said he was approached by National Security Minister Jack Warner last year to lead the unit.

Warner has denied Cordner's claims.

Cordner named National Security Operations Centre (NSOC) director Garvin Heerah as his contact person.

Heerah has also denied Cordner's claims that the New Flying Squad existed but did admit last week that he facilitated the rental of eight vehicles to Cordner for his use.

Speaking at a press conference at the Charles Street, Port of Spain, office of the Opposition Leader yesterday, Rowley said Persad-Bissessar must address the issue when she returns from Haiti, where she is attending a Caricom meeting.

"The government now has difficulty in convincing the population, no matter what you may think about the officers, cranky, crazy or otherwise, what is in the public domain is a mixture of fact and fiction and it is in the public interest to separate the fact from the fiction," Rowley said.

In an attempt to sift fact from fiction, Rowley called on the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) to conduct independent investigations about the claims being made.

"Too many lies, too many lies, too many lies and I am calling today for an investigation into this matter and because police officers are supposed to have been involved, it should fall to the Police Complaints Authority to examine, to question those persons who are talking to the public on this matter, to find out if police officers are involved at any level."

And the Police Service Commission must have an interest in this matter because if this could be happening, and the Commissioner of Police can easily say I am unaware about it, the Police Service Commission must satisfy itself that these statements are true and correct and the public has nothing to fear," he said.

Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has denied knowledge of the NFSIU.

Rowley said the PSC must investigate to ensure the authority of the Commissioner was not "trampled upon".

He added: "The Police Service Commission should look into this matter to ensure that the authority of the Commissioner of Police, which has always been threatened by the current minister, has not in fact been trampled upon, either by the director of the NSOC or the minister because these people claimed to have been reporting to the minister by way of Mr Heerah and if that was so, where is the authority of the Commissioner of Police?

"We cannot concede that serious authority to people who do not respect the rights and security of the people of Trinidad and Tobago."

Persad-Bissessar must break her silence on the issue, Rowley said.

"Something has to be done about this. This cannot be swept under the carpet and whereas Mr Heerah and Mr Warner are prepared to pretend not to know anything about it, notwithstanding the facts in the public domain and the witnesses out there to speak to the authorities, the Prime Minister cannot pretend not to be interested in this matter," Rowley said.

Rowley said a question has been filed in the Parliament about the issue.

He said he was not prepared to have such a unit in operation, especially under the control of Warner, because one of Warner's first acts as National Security Minister was to utilise the Defence Force to use "high-handed actions" against protesters in Debe.

Rowley likened the NFSIU to the Mongoose Gang in Grenada and the Tonton Macoute in Haiti.

He said both Warner and Heerah should resign.

Rowley said it was the "umpteenth time" the Opposition had called for Warner's resignation.

In the aftermath of flooding in Diego Martin last year, Warner admitted that he hired a photographer to stand outside Rowley's constituency office to determine whether it was opened or closed following the disaster.

Rowley yesterday questioned whether the NFSIU was the outfit used by Warner in that situation.

He said during the national budget presentation last year, he questioned Finance Minister Larry Howai about an unexplained expenditure going to the National Security Ministry.

"Would you hold it against me if I come to the conclusion that it was the intention of the government to fund something like this in a clandestine way?"

He said the NFSIU had been provided with a fleet of vehicles by the organisation that supplied vehicles to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

"Isn't it amazing, something you do not know anything about, somebody you do not know anything about, somebody who is not working for you, somebody who you are not interested in, you just give them a fleet of cars to drive around the country. Come on, we are not kindergarten children.

Heerah, who is currently in Argentina, is expected to return on Friday.

Warner told the Express yesterday he was unaware that Heerah had left the country for Argentina.

Warner had told the Express on Monday that he expected a report from Heerah in 24 hours on the NFSIU.

In a telephone interview, Warner said Heerah was expected back on Friday and he would address the matter then.

Heerah left Trinidad and Tobago for Argentina on Monday morning to attend a security meeting.

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