Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rumours ‘stemmed from prank phone call’


FOCUSED: Members of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard participate in the joint recruit passing out parade of the Coast Guard and the Air Guard at the Heliport in Chaguaramas yesterday. See Page 3. —Photo: Curtis Chase

Mark Fraser

THERE can be no repeat of the 1990 attempted coup or anything “remotely close” to it once National Security Minister Gary Griffith is in charge.

This minister said so as he dispelled rumours that a coup was set to take place yesterd­ay.

Griffith said the rumours, which caused widespread panic throughout the country yesterday, stemmed from a prank phone call. He said the identity of the prank caller is being investigated.

He called on citizens to me more “mature” and not fall prey to “rumours, propaganda, hearsay and sensationalism”.

Griffith was speaking to members of the media following a joint recruit passing out parade at the heliport in Chaguaramas.

“What I am trying to build into this country is a proper national alert state to give the country the assurances that when one individual makes a stupid statement, it just spreads,” he said.

“We as a country, what I am asking us to be mature, let us stop just listening to rumours, propaganda, hearsay and sensationalism,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the prank call was analysed and determined to be false.

“What I have  established is a national security policy. I have set frameworks, not crime plans, this is a perfect example. What we have is a national alert state, by the alert state it means that at any time the most remote rumour we pick it up, we analyse the information and then we know if to discard it, if to shelve it or if to move it forward towards intelligence,” Griffith said.

“Immediately there was no such thing that took place. One person just had nothing to do, he probably just wanted to go home early on a Friday and the whole country, I ask them to trust me on this. There can be no repeat of 1990 or anything remotely close between now and... well whilst I remain in office. It is not going to happen on my watch,” he said.

Griffith said the Defence Force plays a “major role” in the fact that there cannot be another July 27, 1990, attempted coup.

The attempted coup was staged by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen led by Imam Yasin Abu Bakr.

“No group of individuals can even think of doing what they did in 1990. The fact of the matter is through the National Operations Centre, we have that coordination for real-time information that can be passed on to all the agencies; and because of that, there can be no situation where rumours can be spread and the law-enforcement agencies are not aware what is going on,” Griffith said.

“We knew from the first time that call was made it was one individual. And again I ask the country when we have situations, hear from the law-enforcement agencies first, hear it from the National Operations Centre, hear it from the Ministry of National Security. If something happens, I will be the first to let the country be aware there was never a situation like that in any possible way,” he said.

Griffith said the National Security agencies are “fully ahead of the game”.

“We are fully ahead of the game at all times, and if at any time somebody decides to put God out of their thoughts and do something like that, it will be dealt with in the quickest possible time,” Griffith said.