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Manning, Panday had no link to plot

By Andre Bagoo Friday, March 14 2014

FORMER PNM political leader Patrick Manning and former UNC political leader Basdeo Panday did not have any prior knowledge of the plot to attack the Parliament and the NAR government in 1990, the Sir David Simmons Report on the Commission of Enquiry into the events of that year has found.

The Report is due to be laid in the House of Representatives this afternoon. It was formally presented to President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday.

Newsday understands the Report indicates that the evidence gathered by the enquiry over its three years of hearing did not suggest that Panday or Manning had any prior knowledge.

But at the same time, the Report finds that destabilising activities by the then opposition to the NAR government were a contributing factor to the 1990 attack which saw former Prime Minister ANR Robinson held hostage in the Parliament chamber, and 24 people – including one MP – killed.

The Report states that the opposition forces which marshaled against the NAR at the time created an unstable political environment which effectively triggered the attack.

Further, it is understood that the Report:

* recommends the introduction of more robust national security systems, including the use of up- to-date and modern intelligence methods;

* the strengthening of law enforcement bodies;

* finds that specific persons – including the insurrectionists – had committed serious crimes;

* finds that some police officers were guilty of dereliction of duty.

For years, Panday and Manning have been dogged by rumours over their degree of knowledge of the events of 1990, with some pointing to the absence of both men from the Parliament chamber on the evening of July 27, 1990.

In an interview with Newsday yesterday, Sir David said the Report’s findings are based solely on the evidence presented to it.

Panday appeared at the inquiry and confirmed his infamous statement, “wake me up when it is over” saying this was a statement in jest. Of persons who regarded him as complicit in 1990, he said, “I didn’t think anyone was so dumb. I didn’t think anyone was so dunce...thick...stupid to believe this statement constituted evidence of my knowledge or could implicate me in the attempted coup.”

Manning declined to attend the enquiry or respond to a list of questions raised involving him which was sent to him last year. In the years after 1990, during his tenure as Prime Minister, Manning confirmed meeting with Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr “three or four times” and once sought to push forward a land deal with the Muslimeen on live national television. A police investigation was launched and Manning was interviewed though never charged with any corruption office by the current law enforcement authorities.

Sir David also yesterday said some of the recommendations of the Report, while sensitive and relating to national security, were dated and have since been dealt with over the years.

However, he also expressed the hope that the Report would be made public.

The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday said the Report was received by Persad-Bissessar and was raised at a meeting of the National Security Council, held at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

Persad-Bissessar is expected to address the Parliament today on the Report.

The Prime Minister also thanked Sir David and the other commission members for the work they had put into the enquiry, which resulted in the presentation of the report today. The other members of the commission were Sir Richard Cheltenham, Dr Haffizool Ali, Eastlyn Mc Kenzie and Diana Mahabir-Wyatt.

In 2011, Persad-Bissessar recommended to then President George Maxwell-Richard the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the 1990 attempted coup which resulted in the deaths of 24 persons and destruction of property worth millions of dollars.

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