Environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement had made an "open threat" to the security of the Prime Minister, "a direct threat" to the Government and represented a threat to the democracy of the nation.
So stated National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister, Gary Griffith yesterday as he sought to justify the presence of the two top military officers at the demolition of the camp site last Wednesday.
Responding to statements by former chief of defence staff, Major-General Ralph Brown, Griffith said the current Chief of Defence Staff, Kenrick Maharaj and Commanding Officer, Anthony Phillips-Spencer acted appropriately when they chose to be present at the demolition of the camp site
Brown told the Express on Monday that the National Security Minister (Jack Warner) had the authority to request the assistance of the army "as an aid to the civil power" assisting the police in the demolition exercise.
But Brown questioned whether it was a proper use of the military and he also stated there was no need for Brigadier Maharaj and Colonel Phillips-Spencer to be present at Debe.
He said the exercise was a "minor operation" and a corporal could have done the job. Brown also said it seemed the army took the lead role with the police merely standing, looking on, citing the fact that it was two soldiers who carted Kublalsingh away. Brown said this was wrong, since it was the police which had the powers of arrest.
But Griffith disagreed with Brown, saying yesterday, " It is to be noted that this Movement is led by someone who recently made a public statement that the Government would no longer be safe, and that this Movement also intends to set up a camp outside the private home of the same Prime Minister who they also threatened, openly stating that she would no longer be safe.
"In fact, I have officially written to the Commissioner of Police on this matter, expressing my concern of this threat. If this was not an open threat to the security of the Prime Minister, and a direct threat to the Government and therefore the democracy of our nation, then I do not know what is...upon which is it totally appropriate not to take these threats lightly, which would also inevitably mean, ensuring that the appropriate security measures are taken when dealing with such individuals."
He added, "For Major General Brown to then question the presence of the Chief of Defence Staff and Commanding Officer of the Army in such an operation is indeed unfortunate, as contrary to his perception, this was no simple operation that should be led by a Corporal. Additionally, it would have been sheer disrespect and poor military protocol,...(if) Brigadier Maharaj had decided to send a Corporal to lead the soldiers in such an operation."
Griffith therefore concluded, "This was by no means overkill, as one cannot expect Girl Guides or the Cub Scouts to be a part of such an operation, and the use of the Military, led by their senior officers was totally appropriate and in keeping with the protocols of the Defence Force."
Griffith said the role and function of the Defence Force, as enshrined in our Constitution is clear —it is the right of the National Security Minister to request the support of the military, and to seek their assistance to support the police in such objectives or operations.
"It would be much more beneficial if comments such as that offered by Major General Brown could provide the type of objectivity and accuracy that the population of Trinidad and Tobago needs to improve their understanding of military matters. Both in terms of the process by which he formed his opinion and the content of his expressed opinion, Major General Brown clearly has done a disservice to the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, the command of both the Defence Force and the Army and at best has exposed an obviously subjective motive by his public assertion," Griffith said.