SSA coup

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - Venessa Mohammed
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - Venessa Mohammed

NEVER AGAIN. That is the assurance given each year as we mark the bloody events of July 1990, which saw Islamic fundamentalists orchestrate an insurrection. Never again, we are told, will such a thing happen.

And yet the bombshell disclosures by the Prime Minister in Parliament on July 3 suggest a coup occurred right beneath the noses of the National Security Council, the Ministry of National Security, the Special Branch and the police.

Instead of being driven by radicalism from without, this one came from within.

At some stage, the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) went rogue, forming a so-called “tactical response unit,” flooding itself with guns, and recruiting unvetted officials with dastardly motivations.

“Such persons belonged to a cult which was arming itself while preaching a doctrine for trained military and paramilitary personnel with a religious calling to be the most suitable to replace the country’s political leadership,” Dr Rowley said. “They were exerting high levels of influence on the affairs of the agency to the detriment of national security.”

Few more blood-curdling sentences have been uttered by a prime minister.

It is clear while Dr Rowley attested to being “blindsided” by these developments weeks ago, far more was at stake than just the question of government oversight.

It was his very place as the democratically-elected leader of this country that fell in the line of fire.

If these initial SSA review findings – and the probe is ongoing – prove conclusive, this was a matter of treason.

There are shades of the foiled 2011 plot to assassinate Kamla Persad-Bissessar (though the credibility of that threat was disputed).

It is only fair to ask, as did Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, whether the Government should be held accountable for failure to nip these developments in the bud. It is cold comfort to say the plot has been dealt with; the organisation’s compromise was itself the silent overthrow.

But the truth is, the facts, as disclosed by the Prime Minister, are so bizarre they might have happened under any government.

All cabinets repose trust in security agencies and, theoretically, must adopt a hands-off approach.

Indeed, it was the appearance of interference in the SSA, through the Reshmi Ramnarine scandal, that so unnerved the nation. If the SSA barely survived that affair, it seems destined not to survive this one.

A key factor identified by Sir David Simmons in his report into 1990 was the role played by state disharmony.

It is worth asking whether a similar breakdown of co-operation, administrative and political, has paved the way for all this.

Whatever the causes, all sides must acknowledge the gravity of what has occurred. They must come together either to bolster oversight of or to abolish this blighted agency.


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