The fact that all of 15 people who were held in relation to a plot to disrupt Carnival have not been charged with anything is not an indication that the threat was false.
This is the belief of former national security minister Gary Griffith who spoke with Sunday Newsday yesterday. Griffith said the fact that nothing took place during the Carnival period could be a testament to the good work by the police who acted as they were supposed to regarding the threat. Griffith said to comment on the arrests of the 15 and release of 13 without charge in relation to the plot would be irresponsible of him and anyone else as that formed part of the criminal justice system. He added that intelligence did not equate to evidence. He said the information received pertaining to the threat was based on a timeline and that timeline was the Carnival period. He said what was done was ensuring that the planned mission failed and the public should feel comfortable with that.
He added: “Not because Carnival was over the mission and the plot has failed that it should be business as usual. We should be vigilant 24/7. It is very irresponsible of people to say that by nothing happening the threat was not real, that is totally foolish. Nothing happening could have been because the state agencies did what was required to stop the threat.”
Asked about Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s claim that there is an ISIS cell in TT, Griffith said terrorism was a worldwide thing but TT was not a hub for terrorism. He added that 30,000 people worldwide had left their countries to join ISIS and of the 70 that left TT to join the terror group none had ever returned.
“The Prime Minister has never stated that there are terrorists in Trinidad and Tobago...What we have here is cells/institutions/organisations who are involved in aiding, abetting, providing financial, administrative and logistical support for persons to travel to become terrorist,” Griffith said adding some may have travelled to Syria and become sympathisers and now back in the country and it was these who were being monitored. He said the entire incident showed the need for a counter-terrorist unit within the police service.
Griffith said, six years ago, when there was a plot to assassinate then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, many people were arrested and later released. He said the police service since then needed training in deciphering intelligence and evidence as the arrest and release of people without charge will weaken confidence in the police. Also contacted yesterday was leader of the 1990 attempted coup Imam Yasin Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr said neither himself nor anyone from his Jamaat-al-Muslimeen mosque were questioned in relation to the Carnival threat because he had nothing to do with it and to do with ISIS as that was not his way. Asked if he believed there was an ISIS cell in the country, Abu Bakr said he knew nothing of that and described those who would have left the country to join ISIS as stupid. Abu Bakr, who since 1990 is no stranger to prison, added that what was more pertinent was the fact that there were men in prison, some 13 to a cell for 23 hours daily for a decade and released without conviction.
“Tell me what are you breeding in there? You have these men, some innocent men in prison for years, some longer than the maximum punishment for their crimes awaiting a trial.” Waajihatul Islamiyyah (The Islamic Front) leader Umar Abdullah, who admitted to facilitating locals to join ISIS but later stated he was a changed man and no longer encouraged such behaviour, said the Prime Minister should apologise for telling the country there was an ISIS cell here.
Abdullah said he and fellow Muslims love the country and said Rowley’s statement was divisive and reckless. He said acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and National Security Minister Edmund Dillon should also apologise, specifically to the Muslim community who were marginalised in the plot.