NOT IN TANDEM: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley gesticulates as he makes a point during yesterday's media conference at Tower D at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.—Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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Rowley on assassination plot: Police info contradicts PM's statement

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

"Hysterical political expediency!"

That was Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley's response to Government's actions arising out of an alleged assassination plot against the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and three members of her Cabinet.

"The action is overkill and is meant to send a signal that the Government is treating with a very serious matter in a way, not to bring about successful prosecution, but to bring about political sympathy," Rowley told a news conference at Tower D.

"The police position on this matter does not square with the Prime Minister's position," Rowley said, following a meeting with Deputy Commissioner Richardson in which he was briefed on the security threat.

"And if I am challenged on this matter, I would demonstrate to the country what I am saying," he added. "I am asking you to trust me on this matter—that the (Prime Minister's statement that the assassination plot is the result of) threat of reprisals by criminals—does not square with the (police) information. It is the PNM's view that what we are dealing with is a police investigation...which is in its infancy...and which has not advanced to the stage where any person can be charged. And we make a clear distinction between information, evidence, arrest, charge and prosecution," he said.

Rowley said one could not help but notice the "pusillanimous silence" of the Minister of National Security John Sandy. He called on the Minister to state "today" where the country stood on this matter with respect to "information, evidence, arrest and charge" and "not hide behind the skirt-tail of the Prime Minister".

Rowley said publicity of the "new and elevated plot" has come in the dying stages of a State of Emergency "even as the initial plot (which led to the calling of the State of Emergency on August 21) remains a secret and unexplained". The SoE ends on December 5 which is Monday after the next.

"We are calling on the National Security Minister to provide the country with adequate, satisfactory and believable information to justify the action that the Government has taken to date on this matter," Rowley said.

"It is unacceptable for the potential target of the threat, namely the head of Government, who has a political interest informing this matter to be spokesperson and advocate for this unidentified threat, and to be the person advancing the country circumstances to the world..saying 'I am in line to be assassinated so I have taken certain action and trust me', the Opposition Leader stated.

Rowley said the Prime Minister's decision to call him and make the security forces available to him for a briefing was "kind" and it was a "very positive development" since "it was useful for the country for the Opposition Leader to be exposed to information which could assist in this arm of the State coming to a decision with respect to the serious development".

Rowley stressed that a threat to the life of the Prime Minister, any member of the Government or any office-holder was a very serious matter and the PNM abhors any such threat.

And Rowley said he was not prepared to share any of the specific information provided to him by Deputy Commissioner Richardson with whom he met yesterday morning. But having met with and having been briefed by the police, he could now tell the national community that he was not satisfied that the Government's action in the last 24 hours, was in the nation's best interest.

"But we are not prepared to accept the Prime Minister making herself a victim and a target, and executing public policy without adequate information to the population," he said. He added that any serious Prime Minister would have been reluctant to put herself in the position of "champion" and would have instead allowed the security forces to investigate so that the perpetrators could be arrested.

Rowley said it was this Prime Minister who in moving into the residence could not explain why the electronic surveillance at the residence was scaled down and electronic equipment moved from the residence. "But we get now in the face of the unspecified alleged threat a picture painted to the world of snipers on top the roof of the Prime Minister's residence," he said.

Rowley noted that the Opposition has consistently pointed out that since the declaration of the SoE to now, no one had been detained under emergency powers. He said with this development (of the assassination plot) Government was able to correct that since the alleged miscreants were being detained (without arrest) under the emergency powers. The Opposition Leader said he feared that the Police which is already tarnished with respect to its actions vis-a-vis the Anti-Gang legislation was in line of political fire once again to be tarnished.

He said government's action were triggered by information already in the public domain for quite some time relating to threats of instability coming from the labour movement. He said this is a Government which panicked whenever it thinks it is threatened. "On August 21 when there were killings in Arima, Government panicked and declared a State of Emergency and curfew. Today they are threatened by mobilisation of the trade labour movement with the end of the emergency, they have once again panicked and have come up with this story of an assassination plot which cannot stand public scrutiny," Rowley stated.

Repeated efforts to get Minister Sandy yesterday were unsuccessful.

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