Witnesses: Kenrick Thong, left, and Stephen Maurice at yesterday's sitting of the commission of enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port of Spain. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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'Training taught escort not to engage enemy'

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Former police officer Stephen Maurice, who was part of former prime minister Arthur NR Robinson's personal bodyguard detail, said he did not engage Muslimeen insurgents in battle when they stormed the Red House in July 1990, for fear many more lives would be lost.

Giving evidence before the commission of enquiry yesterday at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port of Spain, Maurice said: "It is easy to say (ask) why didn't you fire, but when a target is stationary it is very easy to fire at it and you would hit your target. But when the target is moving or the target is shooting back at you, then the problem comes in," he said.

He said the training in VIP protection suggested the "escort is not to engage the enemy... but to give the Prime Minister or the VIP proper body cover".

Maurice said he threw himself over Robinson and was pulled off by one of the insurgents.

Maurice said his hands and feet were bound and he was told not to lift his head and was struck every time he attempted to do so. He said two other members of the Robinson's security detail were brought close to him—one was put on top of him and another at his side.

Maurice said they remained in that position until 8 o'clock that night, when Bilaal Abdullah said: "Release the security, they are just doing their jobs."

He said Abdullah also said: "Don't allow them to leave with any clothes." He also said: "Don't allow them to leave altogether."

They were released at different times. He said his shirt jack suit was cut off of him (leaving him in only his briefs) by one of the insurgents who had a knife.

Asked whether he offered to stay with Robinson in the Red House, notwithstanding the fact the insurrectionists were prepared to release him (Maurice), he said no.

He said at that point, he said he thought it was useless to offer to stay. His hands were still bound when he was allowed to leave the Red House that night. He passed by dead bodies and armed insurrectionists as he exited the building.

When he went in the vicinity of Abercromby and Knox Street, he saw two of his colleagues and journalist Andy Johnson, who helped to free him.

But he had to walk the streets with them in his underwear for some time before he was able to get transport to go to the Prime Minister's residence and brief Patricia Robinson, the wife of the then prime minister.

Maurice said he then went to Camp Ogden, Long Circular and was debriefed by Major Ralph Brown.

He said one of the deficiencies in the national security arrangements was not having the Special Branch police officers sitting in Parliament armed, leaving only members of the Prime Minister's personal detail with arms.

"You, Corporal Charles and Constable Pilgrim got exemption or permission to have firearms in Parliament because you were protecting the Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister was one in the Parliament of 36. And here you have all these Special Branch people who are protecting the other 35 (MPs) and not one fella has a firearm. It can't be right. It is not proportionate. It is not reasonable," Sir David stated.

Maurice continued to be Robinson's security until he demitted office in 1991.

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