Manning denies accusation
PORT OF SPAIN – Former prime minister Patrick Manning has denied a statement by a former government minister that he had been in talks with a group of men minutes before they stormed the parliament in a bid to overthrow the Trinidad and Tobago government in 1990.
“I vehemently deny the outlandish assertion made … by former MP Gloria Henry to the Commission of Inquiry into the attempted Coup of July 27th 1990,” Manning said in a brief statement.
Henry, who served as social development minister in the ANR Robinson administration, told the Commission of Enquiry probing the July 27, 1990 coup, that at the time she thought nothing of the discussions between Manning and the group of men.
“I actually thought they were looking a bit scruffy, “she said, adding that none of them looked as though they belonged to any organization,” Henry told the Commission chaired by Barbadian jurist, Sir David Simmons.
“But after when the disorder started I recognized all of them,” she said, noting that Manning had been chatting with the group just before legislators returned to the Chamber after the tea break.
“Mr Manning was chatting with them and after he finished chatting with them he went into the Parliament chamber, took up his brief case and left,’ she said.
Asked whether he left immediately after, she replied “Yes”.
The leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen group, Yasin Abu Bakr, who has in the past publicly indicated a willingness to testify before any commission, led more than 100 members in storming the Parliament and the lone television station in a coordinated attack hoping to overthrow the Robinson administration.
At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed during the six day insurrection that ended on August 1. Bakr and his men were tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.
However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.
In his statement, Manning, who was an opposition legislator at the time of the failed coup, said that “ at no point on the day in question was I, knowingly, in conversation with any member of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen in the precincts of the Parliament.
“Her imputation therefore that I was in knowledge of their nefarious intentions is utterly false and very scurrilous indeed.
“I once again wish to make it absolutely clear. I had no prior knowledge of that dastardly assault on the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. The truth is that my absence from the Session after the extended tea break on that day was the result of a growing boredom with a rather repetitious debate that had been going on ad nauseam for a number of days and after speaking appropriately with the Leader of Government business, Hon. Joseph Toney. (CMC)