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'Govt must address questions on plot'

By Kim Boodram

THE Government must address questions by the public on the alleged assassination plot against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, or risk not being taken seriously in the future, economist Indera Sagewan-Alli has said.

In the wake of statements by Persad-Bissessar last week that local and international security forces had uncovered a plot to kill her and several senior Cabinet ministers, much of the population has reacted with indifference and disbelief.

Many citizens who have spoken to newspapers or posted on Internet blogs in the past week have accused the government of exaggerating claims of the plot, in an attempt to muster support from a population frustrated by a perceived lack of performance.

Sagewan-Alli said yesterday Persad-Bissessar must face up to the demands of the public or risk alienating the people.

"I don't think the country will be pleased if this goes no further," Sagewan-Alli said.

"If we don't see more evidence, we will have some serious trouble going forward. If this goes no further, how are we to go back to a state of normalcy? How is the population to take the Government seriously after this? This is something that should have made the population sit up and want to fix it."

Sagewan-Alli said she does not believe the population will be prepared to accept an extension of the State of Emergency either.

Even worse, she said, the Government's disclosure that retired national security personnel are involved in the plot could destroy whatever faith in the security forces and the population might have mustered during the SoE.

"There was already little faith in local security forces," Sagewan-Ali said.

"That would be totally destroyed. Saying that members of the security forces - whether they were retired does not make a difference as these are associations that continue after retirement - are involved, was the most significant announcement of the whole thing.

"That fact is that whatever the source of the plot, the population needs to see the perpetrators caught and brought to justice. Otherwise, how will the population go back to normal with the security forces."

She added: "In terms of people not taking it seriously, the reason they may be inclined to be dismissive is could be because of the results - or lack thereof - of the State of Emergency.

"Certainly, in terms of what is in the public domain, we are not clear on what the objectives were of the Government and the security forces and whether they achieved those objectives. Not to use a cliche, but I think people were expecting to see some serious 'big fish'."

Sagewan-Ali said the public is still also unclear on the threat to the security of the nation alluded to at the start of the SoE, which National Security Minister John Sandy, said then would have made the 1990 attempted coup "look like a garden party".

"We were told the SoE was to stave off an impending crisis that was made to seem dire," Sagewan-Ali said.

"Yet, three months into it (SoE), we have not been told what the nature of the crisis was, we have simply been told it was avoided. It would have been better if the authorities had come clean with the population and explained the nature of the situation and removed speculation."

She said the way in which the matter was handled also may not have been the best course of action.

"Perhaps it would have been better to handle it quietly," she said.

"In the absence of clarity, people have been left with a deep sense of scepticism."

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