Kamla Persad Bissessar (FILE)
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PORT OF SPAIN – Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar has questioned whether or not there was indeed a terrorist plot to destabilise the country during the recent Carnival celebrations and cautioned that not every Muslim is a terrorist.
Addressing a public meeting of her United National Congress (UNC) in San Juan, east of here on Monday night, Persad Bissessar, said “I have to wonder like others have wondered whether this whole charade that played out . . . over the Carnival period whether it was just to distract your mind from all the wrongs in this country.”
She said the government had embarked on a strategy of blaming the opposition, certain sections of the population in a bid to identify their enemy.
“Who is their enemy and we must never let them get away with that. We must never let them get away with targeting Islamic brotherhood in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Police had detained 15 suspects, mainly those of the Muslim faith, for questioning after indicating that they had uncovered the plot to destabilise the Carnival celebrations. All except two of those detained had been released without charges, while the husband and wife face an illegal weapon related charge.
The Canadian, United States and British authorities issued statements warning their nationals to be wary of the terrorist threat and London said that “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Trinidad and Tobago”.
The US Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 has named Trinidad and Tobago the country with the highest per capita rate of ISIS recruitment in the Western Hemisphere. According to the report, more than 70 nationals are believed to be fighting with ISIS in Syria.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who is due to meet with leaders of the Muslim community, possibly early next month, has warned that the terrorist threat was real and not a joke.
“There are some people who believe that this is a joke and people who believe that this is personal persecution. Claims of religious and ethnic persecution hold no water. If you engage in criminal conduct you are subject to monitoring and intervention by security services,” he said earlier this month.
But Persad Bissessar, told supporters that while she does not support terrorism, it is a reality the country has to deal with.
“I do not support terrorism in any form none of us here do but our brethren . . . will tell us that their faith and their teachings in Islam are for peace and brotherhood,” she said, adding “but in everything else there is good and not so good.
“There are those who will be extremists and we must cut the extremists down, those are the real terrorists but not every person of the Islamic faith is a terrorist and not every terrorist is of Islamic faith, always remember that as we go about our business side by side” she added.
Meanwhile, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad has ordered the State to pay TT$6 100 in legal costs incurred by Alisha Thomas who had filed a habeas corpus writ challenging her lengthy detention as part of the on-going investigation into the alleged terrorist plot.
Thomas and her husband Adil Mansano were among the initial group detained for questioning and their writs were eventually withdrawn after they were charged with possession of a component of a firearm, in a gun cleaning kit, which was allegedly found at their home at the time of their arrest.
Mansano received half of his legal costs when his case was withdrawn on February 15, but Justice Seepersad only considered his wife’s case on Monday.
In his oral decision, Justice Seepersad said the police investigators couldn’t justify why they failed to charge Thomas for the kit shortly after it was recovered.
He noted also that the police could not justify keeping Thomas for almost six days even as he acknowledged investigations into terrorism are complex and cannot be completed in a short period of time.
“The authorities are obligated to treat the information and intelligence received and conduct a thorough investigation . . . . Ultimately, the rights of all citizens have to be protected,” Seepersad said as he noted that terrorism threats were not trivial. (CMC)