Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Mischievous and disturbingly misleading! Ex-TTDF Chief blasts report into Al-Rawi children’s use of firearms

Mischievous and disturbingly misleading! Ex-TTDF Chief blasts report into Al-Rawi children’s use of firearms

“I am […] deeply concerned that the disturbingly misleading statements made in the TTDF response carry the potential to do serious harm to the character and reputation of Major General Maharaj…

“The implications are further exacerbated when one observes that the only person named in the entire TTDF document is Major General Kenrick Maharaj.”

The following Letter to the Editor from former Chief of Defence Staff and Major General Kenrick Maharaj was submitted in response to the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) Board of Inquiry (BOI) report into how Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s children were allowed to use high-power weapons at the army’s Cumuto base.

Photo: Former National Security Minister John Sandy (second from left) greets then Chief of Defence Staff Major-General Kenrick Maharaj (left) while Brigadier Anthony Spencer (second from right) looks on.
(Courtesy News.Gov.tt)

The TTDF’s BOI report stated:

“It was established that the former chief of defence staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj, acting on his own volition, authorised the range practice… The board did not unearth any evidence which indicated that persons in the TTDF accorded preferential treatment to children of high-ranking government officials inclusive of the Attorney General’s children…”

In response, Maharaj issued the following statement:

Greater attention should have been given to procedural accuracy, the judicious use of language as well as exercising greater prudence in treating with a former Chief of Defence Staff…

I did not authorise the range practice at Cumuto Barracks in October 2015 attended by the AG Al-Rawi and his family nor did I invite the AG to any military base to attend any range firing activity on 31 October 2015 or at any other time during my tour of duty as Chief of Defence Staff. I did not have any communications with the AG on this matter at any time.

I have taken note of articles published in the mainstream media on Sunday 4 June 2017 on the subject at caption. On 26 April 2017, I received information that the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) submitted a response to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on a highly-publicised matter allegedly involving children of the current Attorney General, The Honourable Faris Al-Rawi.

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.

The submission, signed by the Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier General Rodney Smart on 25 April 2017, provided information purporting to be extracts from a Board of Inquiry (BOI), which was conducted into the circumstances surrounding children of the Attorney General being photographed with “high-powered” weapons, during a Range Firing Practice at Cumuto Barracks on 31 October 2015.

I communicated with Brigadier General Rodney Smart Chief of Defence Staff via telephone on 27 April 2017 voicing my concerns about the erroneous contents of the TTDF response and the damaging effects it would have should this document enter the public domain. I trusted that Brigadier General Smart would have taken corrective action.

The TTDF document sought to answer questions raised by the requesting party, Opposition Senator and Attorney at Law, Mr Wayne Sturge. In his request, Senator Sturge listed a number of questions pertaining to the alleged incident and sought to determine whether TTDF personnel committed any breaches in respect of the apparent handling of military weapons by civilian under-aged personnel, namely the children of the Attorney General.

Senator Sturge also sought confirmation on the part of the TTDF on whether TTDF personnel treated the children preferentially and whether there were rewards received accordingly.

For the records, allow me to confirm the following:

I did not authorise the range practice that was conducted at Cumuto Barracks on 31 October 2015 and which was attended by the Attorney General, Farris Al-Rawi and members of his family.

Photo: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi (right) shares his views at the Transparency Institute anti-corruption conference on 8 March 2016.
(Copyright Shaun Rambaran/forge.co.tt)

I did not invite the Attorney General to any military base to attend any range firing activity on 31 October 2015 or at any other time during my tour of duty as Chief of Defence Staff.

I did not have any communications with the Attorney General on this matter at any time.

I was not at Cumuto Barracks on 31 October 2015 and I am not aware who would have received the Attorney General and his family at that military installation on that day and what protocols were observed accordingly.

I was never requested to testify before the Board of Inquiry convened by the Defence Force in relation to this matter.

I was never contacted by the Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier General Rodney Smart in order to offer information or advice on this matter.

One of the questions raised in the FOIA request was “Whether persons in the Defence Force were coerced into breaching settled practice and procedures because of the individuals concerned.” The TTDF response indicated that: “It was established that the former Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Kenrick Maharaj, acting on his own volition, authorised the range practice.”

Photo: Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Rodney Smart.
(Copyright Dialogo-Americas.com)

Given the context of this particular situation, this statement can reasonably be interpreted to mean authorisation for any or all activities in relation to the matter under scrutiny, including the issue of children handling weapons on the range at Cumuto Barracks on the day in question.

I am gravely concerned, from a position of absolute denial in granting such authorisation, that I was not informed of testimony to that effect in the BOI and therefore a fundamental requirement for me to attend the BOI to confirm or deny such an allegation/accusation. Notwithstanding this, it is noted that the statement, “acting on his own volition” is language commonly associated with the criminal law environment and therefore has negative connotations in that regard.

It is highly unusual to ascribe such language to the decision-making process of a Chief of Defence Staff, and so leaves one to wonder in this circumstance, if there was an underlying intent to cause mischief by the person who drafted the TTDF response to Senator Sturge.

Even if a Chief of Defence Staff exercises his “initiative” in any given instance, his ultimate decision is usually based on staff advice—feasibility, suitability, etc—and the subsequent execution by personnel down the chain of command.

I am also deeply concerned that the disturbingly misleading statements made in the TTDF response carry the potential to do serious harm to the character and reputation of Major General Maharaj. I am further very troubled by the failure on the part of Brigadier Smart to exercise due diligence, as was his duty as the Appropriate Superior Authority (ASA) in the TTDF, in not reviewing the BOI and determining on the basis of any testimony—if such testimony indeed exists—implicating the former CDS.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soldiers on the move during joint patrols with the police.
(Copyright Baltimore Examiner)

Why was the President of the Board of Inquiry not advised on the requirement for procedural justice by arranging for my own appearance before the BOI?

The TTDF response further mentions Major General Kenrick Maharaj in answer to another question in the FOIA request: one that could arguably point to misconduct in public office. The question: “Were children of high ranking government officials treated in a preferential manner by persons in the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, and what was the reward for such treatment?”

A rather tediously lengthy response to this question ended with stating that… “there was no need for General Maharaj or any other member of the Defence Force to be rewarded for what is a standard practice in the TTDF and likewise amongst other military establishments.”

The statement is again arguably open for interpretation that can be unfavourable in respect of Major General Maharaj. The implications are further exacerbated when one observes that the only person named in the entire TTDF document is Major General Kenrick Maharaj.

Given the widespread public attention and interest in the matter involving the children of the Attorney General being photographed handling TTDF weapons, one can reasonably infer from the TTDF submission to Senator Wayne Sturge that there may have been some level of condonation by senior persons for the obvious breach of range safety procedures.

Photo: UNC Senator and attorney Wayne Sturge.
(Copyright Newsday)

An even greater concern was whether there was any contravention of relevant section(s) of Act 14 of 1996, “An Act to prohibit the training, drilling and equipping of persons with firearms, ammunition, artillery and the practice of military exercises otherwise than permitted under written law…”

As a former Chief of Defence Staff that is a concern of mine: one which remains unresolved in this matter.

I wish to further state that during my tour of duty as the CDS, I never received requests for, nor authorised similar visits/activities for past VIPs such as the Chief Justice, past Cabinet Ministers or past Attorneys General or members of their families to any similar type of Range activity.

I wish to clarify though, that these types of engagements are legitimate and feasible on the condition that right protocols are observed and that there are no breaches of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Range Safety Standards.

Moreover, I find it worrying that the TTDF response to the FOIA request failed to address the central issue pertaining to this matter. And that was the specific point of contention: that being children in possession of military weapons as displayed in the photograph.

Who permitted that particular breach of range safety standards? Who was the range conducting officer at the time who supervised the activities on that day?

Photo: Then National Security Minister Jack Warner (left) officially elevates Kenrick Maharaj to the post of Major General in 2013.

In view of the concerns raised, I have requested the following from the Chief of Defence Staff:

All statements in the TTDF response to the FOIA request in this matter in which Major General Maharaj is named, be retracted and an amended document prepared and re-submitted to Senator Wayne Sturge.

An official public statement, guided by the pursuit of truth and based on the facts, be made by the Defence Force to undo the hurt caused to Major General Kenrick Maharaj and members of his family circle in light of this painful and unfortunate but avoidable faux pas.

Consideration be given to a comprehensive review of the Board of Inquiry conducted in this matter with specific focus on the Terms of Reference required to guide its deliberations including the central issue of who was responsible for the handing over of military weapons to unauthorised children during a range firing practice at Cumuto Barracks on 31 October 2017.

I conclude with the recommendation that when matters such as the one in question, with high political sensitivities and public interest have to be addressed by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, the Organisation should not engage in compromise in respect of its professional ethics and proper procedure.

Greater attention should have been given to procedural accuracy, the judicious use of language as well as exercising greater prudence in treating with a former Chief of Defence Staff.

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138 comments

  1. Iis the Defence Force a Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force or is it beholden to someone else?

  2. that the reality of T&T politcs

  3. I wouldn’t waste my time on this we all know Nothing comes out of it. ..they’re Protected

  4. Just now that smirk will turn to a frown

  5. Is it true that the soldier that got liked in the barracks is the soldier that supposed to give evidence against the person that let the kids head the guns on the range?

  6. Pinocchio should feel ashamed to say he is a descendant of prophet Muhammad (saws)who was al ameen the truthful and trustworthy. Al Rawi is the exact opposite

  7. PNM shame this country down

  8. Is this debacle real, I awake?

  9. the AG should either step down or FIRE HIMSELF…

  10. YOU HAVE TO GO MR INCOMPETENT.

  11. People are being murdered daily with impunity thats a bigger issue.

  12. It is alleged that one soldier is already dead because of this matter,come clean Mr AG the country is watching…

  13. Yet still PNM don’t fired nobody they are soooo corrupt great is the PNM

  14. And that for every single situation, somebody must be scheming with one party or the other?

  15. Do we really believe that the world is divided neatly between PNM stooges and UNC stooges?

  16. The former major is correct . Who signed the in at the gate , who sent the notice to the main gate to let them enter, who signed out the guns for the armory, or is that the AG weapons of mass destruction. That’s the kind of question the BOi. Should have asked .

  17. Sad times in the history of our DF, when sensitive information or questionable individual’s are no longer deemed as a security risk. It is high time that someone take a stand against anything or anyone that will bring the organisation into disrepute, this is a noble organisation and the last line of defense in our beloved Nation. We should never compromise the core values and always thrive to maintain our standards.

  18. “I did not invite the Attorney General to any military base to attend any range firing activity on 31 October 2015 or at any other time during my tour of duty as Chief of Defence Staff.

    I did not have any communications with the Attorney General on this matter at any time.

    I was not at Cumuto Barracks on 31 October 2015 and I am not aware who would have received the Attorney General and his family at that military installation on that day and what protocols were observed accordingly.

    I was never requested to testify before the Board of Inquiry convened by the Defence Force in relation to this matter.

    I was never contacted by the Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier General Rodney Smart in order to offer information or advice on this matter.”

    *Kenrick Maharaj*

  19. Is this the same ExTTDF Chief kept on past his best by date by the former Government?

  20. CHECK THE HANSARD. THE BOSS OF ALL BOSES BLEW THE CHILDREN AND FATHER’S COVER, IN THE PARLIAMENT.

  21. Just a reminder to everyone that we do delete comments that are abusive, racist or obscene. But we are all adults here… So let’s not have to go there please. 😉

  22. Wait nah everybody know it was the AG children except the AG .

  23. We have some real angry, Vile people in this place. Put a hand. Imagine mixing up with them everyday… You really don’t know who is who.. Calm down you are too vicious.You talk about multiculturalism.You are just as dangerous as the criminals on the streets.Protect your self leaders and patriots…Take Care of the your children..

  24. More political bachannal that’s going to the country any further in hard get on with the business of improving T&T.Sh:ttt.

  25. This Chief of staff said he didn’t gave no authorisation but who was in charge of the Defense force at the time, he ought to no it’s his job, he he is incompetent

  26. The man said that is not he children!!
    Must be the hornaman one!!!
    Such an asshole he is

  27. he think every body stupid he think he is above the law

  28. Maharaj say “somebody lying.” I think the ‘somebody’ is HE!

  29. What is in the dark shall come to light.

  30. By a couple of months, TnT will suffer the worst Governmental disaster unimaginable, mark my word.

  31. Lock them up for arms and ammunition

  32. I wonder if he
    Adopted them from lebanon

  33. Lies, deception, cover up,incompetence and boldfacedness. TT in trouble.

  34. Again! Look for the real criminals with guns and no licenses to go with them.

  35. Those arnt the mans children.

  36. PNM has a culture of disowing their children and abusing their women,they blame it onslavery in power they pass it on to the citizens

  37. Lying got these hooligans in office email gate the pnm police has not closed yet imagine,removed by thug gery a working government, i want them to stay for three
    more years,they say they prefer to eat stone than have a unc government, they eating it already,they thief a whole truckload of gas tank to cook bread and cheese they thiefing in the groceries.

  38. Conflicting reports but what we do know is that The AG’s children were using high powered rifles. Meanwhile the AG is mute on the matter.

  39. Liars…pnm government…all liars..i have been saying this all.along…everybody quiet now…if was unc

  40. Mr Al-Rawi, honourable people don’t behave or find themselves in such situations. An honourable person has integrity, is truthful regardless of the consequences. You foster my disgust for all you politicians!

  41. Ha ha ha what a joke the truth of the matter is so obvious and clear a blind person could see it. Blame the person who is no longer in charge you know…the scape goat. The deffening siclence by the AG is for all intent an unvoluntary admission of complicity. The new man in charge now has to “tow the line” for his own job survival obviously you can’t imply that serious laws were broken involving the AG’s children yuh mad or wah. Then there’s the Trini culture…VIPs doh ever make jail in this country. Next thing to happen is a call for another jokey commission of enquiry to fatten lawyer friend pockets and absolutely zero comes out of it except wealthy lawyers become richer.

  42. Where is the dead beat president not a word just getting pay for nothing

  43. Again guilty without being charged I am living proof of that travesty. Shunned and sidelined so it continues. The question is whose next?

  44. Wired 868 would highlight this ….steupssss

  45. How do you know when a Politician/Lawyer is lying ? His mouth is moving!

  46. Keith Rowley is the best PM this country will ever have

  47. The AG is on record as saying that the controversial training was as a result of threats received, yet the Commissioner of Police stated that the Police was not aware of any threats made to the AG a mere 2-3 months after he was sworn in.

    Who then decided that – of all persons, the AG, his children and Minister Young- should receive special training at Cumoto, without the knowledge and permission of the sitting CDS? Wouldn’t the PM and his family be more needful of this Special training? Were they in receipt of it?

    What is the role of the Minister of National Security, who was a member of the TTDF in this whole matter? When Mr Edmund dillon retired, Brig Maharaj became CDS, and Smart was Colonel.

  48. Note: The ‘official’ Deputy CDS was Brig Phillip-Spencer, but it was known that he would not be CDS as he had attained the age of retirement as a result of Maharaj’s extension of tenure under the PP. Practically, who then was next in line to become CDS upon Maharaj’s retirement? Was it Mr Smart?

  49. The Issues:

    1. Children caught with assault rifles on a TTDF shooting range.
    2. Said children not being Cadets, and without legal authority to possess firearms.
    3. Did the AG and Minister Young possess and discharge firearms on the range as well? If so, was it legal?
    4. Who were members of the BOI? Who were the witnesses?
    5. If Brig Maharaj was CDS at the time, did a soldier act without authority by allowing mentioned persons on the range without his permission and knowledge?
    6. Was there a ‘coup’ in the TTDF via a junior Officer carrying out actions without the knowledge and permission of the CDS?
    7. Did Brig Smart hold a BOI into an action he illegal sanctioned?
    8. Having given the PNM Ministers ‘special treatment’, was Brig Smart’s term of Office as CDS extended under the PNM Government?

  50. I suppose the search is on for another fall guy/stool pigeon, someone who when thrown under the proverbial bus goes willingly and not resist the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune the way Maharaj is doing! LOL

  51. The Issues:

    1. Children caught with assault rifles on a TTDF shooting range.
    2. Said children not being Cadets, and without legal authority to possess firearms.
    3. Did the AG and Minister Young possess and discharge firearms on the range as well? If so, was it legal?
    4. Who were members of the BOI? Who were the witnesses?
    5. If Brig Maharaj was CDS at the time, did a soldier act without authority by allowing mentioned persons on the range without his permission and knowledge?
    6. Who was the Second in Command in the TTDF at the time? Was it Mr Smart? Was there a ‘coup’ in the TTDF via a junior Officer carrying out actions without the knowledge and permission of the CDS?
    7. Did Brig Smart hold a BOI into an action he illegal sanctioned?
    8. Having given the PNM Ministers ‘special treatment’, was Brig Smart’s term of Office as CDS extended under the PNM Government?

  52. This a storm in ah tea cup
    Its all sensationalized for mediaism and to make the honorable look bad !

  53. Bravo ! The oldest trick in the book . It just might have the desired effect .

  54. Who in God’s name did that newspaper editorial? Did the AG tell them what to edit?. I am confused!

  55. Citizens take the honorable out of all them ministers name now. They are all liars. They will get what is coming.

  56. I wouldnt take on Maj Gen Maharaj much…

    He was the man who rolled out the troops to implement an illegal SOE before the President declared it.

    He was the same man who also rolled out the troops on the request of the Minister of National Security to shut down the protestors’ camp on the Highway project.

    Indeed, he was the man who was promoted to the post despite the merit list, and kept in the post after retirement age, for no given reason.

    To be clear, the Chief of Defence Staff reports to the President and is not to take instructions from the Cabinet or PM.

    So Maharaj is compromised. period.

    But that does not absolve anybody if the report is in error. However we can’t believe Maharaj’s claim that it is in error on his word alone, because he compromised himself long ago.

  57. must we still call the AG “honourable”?

  58. Look out for another soldier committing suicide?

  59. Hmmmm since when is that tadpole known to be honest and truthful?? Anyone remember SAUTT?.and our Rishmi debacle.and his involvement in dismantling of our ” spy” agency?he made statements, then denied he said same..repeatedly.. He told Kamliar who in the agency is a PNM spy .he had them investigated..found zero, then still.he fired most of the officers..he is a bottom feeder and , a known nincompoop..

  60. And yet they’re addressed as the “honourable” minister. There’s no such word as honourable, professionalism, integrity and transparency in this country. They’re all sellouts!

  61. Easy case of libel….a law student could represent the former CDS.

  62. The leaders in this place is a disgrace so much lies have some shame

  63. hope he is not made collateral damage for making this stance

  64. Lies, deception, cover up,incompetence and boldfacedness. Country in trouble.

  65. Always finding ways to lies

  66. Because everyone holds a “puppy” as if they are aiming for a target!

  67. I have issues with Brig Smart action from day one you took so long to say the ex brig did it? and there is Ex Brig the man who followed Transport Minister ( Jack Warner) and broke up a protest camp why? how it was legal? Too many gov managers functioning with absolute power.

  68. Another innocent thrown under the proverbial bus?

  69. Why is this even newsworthy? What absolute nonsense.

  70. These people never cease to amaze me

  71. Extremely disturbing. Looking for scapegoats every where. Lasana Liburd, we must start making a list of names they are discrediting.

  72. But in the past he the AG did not know those kidds or it’s not my children how could that be now

  73. This is disturbing to say the least. It tells me something when officials are willing to tarnish someone’s name and we must recognise this is not the first time

  74. People don’t be afraid we surely will blame someone or something for this.

  75. Not surprised by Cheif of Defense response however he needs to sue newspaper for article and let the truth come out in the courts

  76. Wow!..is everything corrupt in this country?.. amazing how people would defend this.

  77. The Army has become shamelessly Politicized they lied on the former CDS, when I read that report I was very surprised learn that the former CDS had given permission for children to handle military weapons, now truth has been revealed, the former CDS did not, they are a bunch of liars, thank God senator Wayne Sturge asked questions we would not of learned the truth

  78. Major General Maharaj…..there are lots of rats in this administration. Faris al Rawi looking for a scapegoat for the children he did not recognise. Once you open your mouth, they will come after you with guns blazing.

    • I smell a lawsuit coming.
      But this story stinks to high heaven.
      Presuming what he states is verifiable, I am happy he has the integrity to speak up.
      And this story is not going to be swept under the carpet.
      So what next CoE into inquiry? Smh
      Over to you, PM.

    • Nerisha, well let’s see if Rodney Smart stays silent. They might see it fit to stand by the report and force Kenrick to take his concerns to court if he is so minded.

    • Ihu. So might be a case of who can put bluff who?
      If he really is innocent and his version of events is true, it is sad to see him being thrown under the bus.
      But the report itself does raise questions, in content and how it came into being.
      How could the report conclude it was him, but he was not interviewed, nor (I presume) asked for a written report?

  79. This is a case of passing the buck. No one wants to take responsibility and frankly, I believe no one.