The new cacophony of outrage generated by the-African base here, has arisen out of allegations that National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds is the latest black man being unjustifiably pilloried by an unfair society in what has become known as the Brent Thomas Fiasco..
But much unlike the case of Youth Service and Development Officer Foster Cummings who was hauled over the coals for taking legitimate loans from a credit union, the Rasta Minister who’s said to be in the bosom of Prime Minister Dr Keith , may have bitten off more than he can chew.
It’s not just a matter of public speculation, but a real possibility that – in his smoothly authoritative style of speaking – Hinds might have taken on a fight with the judiciary, the legal system and the country’s constitution that can lead to his dismissal.
During his years in government, Hinds has weathered many storms under the protection of Rowley who seems to have a soft spot for the man who was once embarrassingly dissed with dirty water by youths in his constituency.
The current issue stems from last week’s stinging judgment by an order by TT High Court Judge Justice Devindra Rampersad who ruled that Thomas, an authorized arms dealer had been illegally arrested by TT police in Barbados.
In this regard, a Trinidad Guardian story dated by Gail Alexander about a number of top CARICOM member officials now lost in the dark over the unprecedented alleged kidnapping of TT arms dealer Brent Tomas in Barbados, has placed governments here in a monkey pants.
Among his findings, Rampersad stated that Thomas, who was at the centre of police investigations in mid-2022, was “unlawfully abducted” last October when T&T police officers, with Barbados police officers’ assistance, detained him while he transited through Barbados en route to Miami.
Rampersad, who suggested the manner of the detention showed an attempt to bypass the lawful procedure of requesting Thomas’ extradition, halted the criminal case against him.
While TT Attorney General Reginald Armour SC acknowledged that the findings of the judge in Thomas’ matter raise serious concerns on the “constitutional propriety of actions” of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
While TT Attorney General Reginald Armour and TT PM Dr Keith Rowley played for time by pleading innocence of the facts, it was the National Security who might have put his foot in his mouth.
On May 1, in a televised broadcast, Hinds – a member of the National Security Council and an Attorney of long standing – commented on the judge’s ruling, saying that criminals have friends everywhere in this country.
He added that ” some of these places where criminal elements can be found included the police, customs, immigration, defence force and the judiciary”.
In a brief release from its court and protocol unit, the Judiciary condemned what it described as the unfortunate statements by the Minister of National Security.
According to the judiciary such utterances only seek to undermine public trust.
In its response to Hinds’ claims the judiciary said the “gratuitous statements such as those made by the National Security Minister, that is,” criminals have friends in the judiciary”, have a dangerous effect of undermining public trust and confidence in the judiciary and rule of law.”
It added that said therefore, such statements have no place in the society of Trinidad and Tobago.
Hinds refused to apologize for his statements which had prompted United National Congress (UNC) Opposition Senator Wade Mark to call for answers on the Brent Thomas issue from Government and police officials of both T&T and Barbados.
“(T&T) Police Commissioner, why are you silent on this? We demand she speaks up and takes action against those rogue TTPS officers who did this act!” Mark said at a UNC media briefing in Port-of-Spain.
He claimed there was a “terror attack” on firearms dealer Thomas, who was “….kidnapped, abducted and forcibly returned to T&T with the full co-operation of the Barbados police, where the Barbados Prime Minister is in charge of National Security.”
Mark alleged that people were “questioning if there was prime ministerial terrorism” in the region. Citing recent Barbados headlines on the matter, Mark said Barbadians are concerned about the “abduction” with Barbados police support.
Mark claimed there was silence on this “ugly, dangerous incident” from Barbados’s National Security Minister, T&T’s National Security Minister “who appeared to wash his hands of it,” from T&T’s Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister, T&T’s Police Commissioner and from the Prime Ministers of T&T and Barbados.
He said: “There’s no time for further silence on this matter! There must be a full statement from the Prime Minister of Barbados. The Prime Minister has to speak up!”
Calling on T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to speak, Mark claimed no Defence Force aircraft could have left T&T heading to Barbados without T&T’s PM and National Security Minister knowing.
Mark questioned if police were “taking instruct ions” from Rowley and not the Commissioner, if there was a “secret Mongoose gang” and how officers in the issue were still on the job.
The State appealed Brent the Thomas ruling on Friday May 5.
FIREARMS DEALER: Brent Thomas
One of the positions taken by the State in its appeal against the decision of Justice Devindra Rampersad in the lawsuit, which was filed by the firearms dealer against the State is that what happened in Barbados cannot be sanctioned by a Trinidad and Tobago court.
The Judge later issued a 90-page report which was highlighted today by Breaking Dawn presenter Stephan Rees who argued that if Hinds is not punished for his statements, then the judiciary, the constitution and the entire democracy will be severely compromised.
In his report, Judge Rampersad categorically stated that “I am no criminal”
The State’s appeal, which was lodged at the Court of Appeal on Friday, is seeking to set aside the orders of the judge and to have the costs of the appeal paid by Thomas.
Among those who have weighed in on the issue is TT Attorney Israel Khan SC who has called for Hinds’ resignation.
It’s now left to be seen how PM Rowley can protect a man to whom he has consistently special favour in the way he has shifted him around various ministries despite allegations of Hinds’ incompetence by many observers.
Therefore, in this very exciting political season where Local and General elections are due back-to- back – it will be a great challenge for the PM to keep Hinds and not expect a big fall out in terms of the PNM’s chances of staying in power.
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