IN 2014, leading up to the 2015 general elections, two hitmen were offered US$2 million to assassinate the opposition leader – Dr Keith Rowley.
On Friday night, Rowley – the Prime Minister – revealed the plot to PNM supporters during a post-budget political meeting at Piggott Corner, Belmont.
Police sources confirmed the report, and disclosed the offer to the hitmen, adding Rowley was not the only target at the time. Two senior PNM campaign managers, one a current government minister, were also on the hit list. There was no information on how much the lives of the two others were valued by those who wanted them dead.
Rowley first made this claim back in 2015 at the PNM’s general election campaign launch at Market Square, Scarborough and linked the plot to the government of the day – the People's Partnership coalition led by the UNC.
His comments were: “I said on a platform in Trinidad a few months ago, for the first time in my career of over 30 years, I feared for my personal safety. Lo and behold, as I am speaking to you now, I am surrounded by people who you pay to protect me from people who will have me killed. First time in TT, the opposition leader is under attack from the government, and when I am not under attack from their friends who they hire to kill me, I am under attack from their friends who they hire to lie about me.”
Addressing the lies then, Rowley said the mother of one of his son’s prior to his marriage was approached and offered money to swear to an affidavit that he had raped her and their son was born out of the rape.
On Friday, in attempt to dismiss criticism of his renewed allegations before they arose, Rowley reminded the crowd that in 1995, attorney general Selwyn Richardson was killed outside his Cascade home – the murder remains unsolved.
“They were so desperate to remove me from the line up in 2015 (general election) that on two occasions they hired a killer to kill me. The first killer refused and went and told a government official. The government official came and told us. We told the police. While dealing with that, they went and found another person. He too refused. There is honour among thieves in this country. It appears as though there is honour among killers too,” he said.
Rowley also revealed a recent plot to murder Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. "That is why one of the first meetings I had... in Whitehall was to determine how to protect the Attorney General because persons are paid money to kill him...I tell you this not because I’m being irresponsible, it’s because I want you to know. You can’t say you don’t know. I want you to know because I am the chairman of the National Security Council.”
Rowley alleged that it was his stance against corruption that fuelled the plot against him. A criminologist, who asked not to be named, said the murder of an opposition leader could alter the political landscape.
"Many people will think that there is no use in that (killing an opposition leader) but if you have a keen sense of a shift in political regime, and there are some things that you may no longer be able to do, crime wise, of course, that you suspect this incoming person will stop, then it is logical for such a person to be removed, in whatever way possible," said the source.
Al-Rawi, who was not present at the meeting, told Sunday Newsday via WhatsApp that the threat on his life is real. He said: “I can confirm the truth of the PM's statements – law enforcement agencies uncovered and have been dealing with the death threats against me – I’d prefer however not to say anything further on the matter.”
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith also confirmed Al-Rawi and Rowley’s lives were at risk and the necessary precautions were taken to protect them. He received “a few months ago”, the report of the threat against Al-Rawi. Griffith said when he was he was national security minister, in 2014, he received information on a plot to kill Rowley and increased Special Branch security around him.
Responding to the claims, Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said while he is concerned about threats made against anyone, he believes the PM was "spinning away like (bowler) Sunil Narine" as he attempted to deflect from the sale of the Petrotrin refinery to the Oilfield Workers Trade Union.
Moonilal said no one should politicise murder threats and the matter should have been dealt with privately, not as a way to garner sympathy or anger from supporters.
"It is unbecoming, irresponsible and reckless," Moonilal said adding that the PM "under the cover of darkness" made scandalous statements.
Kamla, PP ministers death threats
Rowley’s claim that his life was under threat is not the first time that a senior politician publicly stated that their life was at risk. In November 2011, the prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said there was a plot to destabilise the country through a plot to kill her, attorney general Anand Ramlogan, housing minister Moonilal and local government minister Chandresh Sharma.
Senior police yesterday said after an investigation into the plot against Persad-Bissessar and her ministers, it was considered not as “serious” as the plot against Rowley. The officers in elite investigative units reported that it was not that the plot against the the four was false but it could have been summed up as an “emotional outburst” – whereas the threat against Rowley had “more meat on it” given that their information uncovered attempts to hire killers. The status of the investigation remains “pending”, according to the sources.
In the wake of the plot against Persad-Bissessar, there were over a dozen arrests, including of former members of the protective services. However, after they were interviewed all of the suspects were released without charge. The men who were approached to murder Rowley were never arrested and, sources said, remain “in the free world”.