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‘I made no threat’

By Nalinee Seelal Friday, July 4 2014

A heightened security alert for police stations to be on the look out for any suspicious activity around government buildings, the homes of public officials and energy installations across the country followed three messages tweeted on a social networking site yesterday.

The messages also prompted an immediate response from Minister of National Security Gary Griffith who advised the population that they “should be guided by faith in the mechanisms of national security and not by panic and rumour mongering.” The messages originated from Fuad Abu Bakr, son of Jamaat al Muslimeen leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, who led an attempted coup in Trinidad and Tobago in July 1990. Among other points, the messages spoke of “action against injustice in our society” and also called for “protest in every way we can and be part of the change we have begun today.”

The younger Bakr who led a political party, the New National Vision, which contested some seats in the last local government election, confirmed sending the tweets yesterday. Asked what he was seeking to convey in the messages, he said he was concerned about the level of corruption in the society. He also said he was aware that the messages created concern in national security circles. However, he said the messages were not intended to be threats against the state or anyone.

“Threats to whom? For what? That is not the whole aim of our movement,” Bakr said. “ That is not what we have in mind. If it is considered a threat the only thing it is a threat to is the negatives of our society and those who perpetrate those evils — corruption and all the others ills. It could never be perceived as anything else.”

The action spoken about he explained will be “creative forms of protest that will be all legal” among persons who are like-minded on the social networks.

It is understood that the messages resulted directly in prisoners being taken back to their remand centres at Golden Grove and Port-of-Spain from the St George West Magistrates’ Courts much earlier than usual — just after midday — but the operations of the courts themselves were not disrupted.

Sources also revealed that information about the messages was made known to National Security Minister Gary Griffith who was attending a Cabinet meeting, and he immediately gave instructions to have the contents of the tweeted message thoroughly examined.

The Minister issued a release later in the afternoon which stated: “In response to the latest attempt to destabilise the smooth operation of the State through malicious rumours of instability, especially the abuse of channels of communication on the social media, the Minister of National Security again advises the national public that at any time now and in future they should be guided by faith in the mechanisms of national security and not by panic and rumour mongering.” He advised further that “the State’s security mechanisms, intelligence gathering and law enforcement response are second to none, and that while there are no guarantees that the lawless among us might not be tempted to test it, there is every guarantee that they would fail in those endeavours every time.”

Griffith also assured the public that the combined security forces (police and Defence Force) harnessed through the National Operations Centre (NOC) provides a formidable challenge to any and all who might consider any activity of this nature.

The minister said any information pertaining to a threat to the State or disruption of public order will be generated from the NOC in a timely and accurate manner. Information received by Newsday revealed the messages were copied to several government offices including the NOC which went into full gear into examining the contents.

The first message tweeted read in part “we apologise to the general public for the inconvenience. Action starts today.” The second message read, “Our leaders will listen if we make them listen” and went on to complain about poverty, favoured contracts for friends and families of leaders, police abuse of youths, and moves to increase the salaries of parliamentarians. The third message spoke about bad governance and read, “administration after administration, we have the same corrupt, divisive, uncaring, incompetent practices. It is not just this Government it is the culture of bad governance that we take issue with.”

Sources revealed intelligence officers are expected quiz Bakr to ascertain exactly what he meant by the messages.

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