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Small: Jamaat persecution, crooked justice and corrupt gov’t officials 

Former Jamaat-al-Muslimeen lieutenant Lancelot Small offers a wandering, indirect defence for himself, his brother and detained Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, who was held for questioning in relation to slain attorney Dana Seetahal:

Photo: Dana Seetahal SC was gunned down in Woodbrook in the wee hours of Sunday 4 May 2014.
Photo: Dana Seetahal SC was gunned down in Woodbrook in the wee hours of Sunday 4 May 2014.

They are at it again.

In 1990, the ANR Robinson Administration drove the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen to the point of no return. Twenty-five years later, desperate for re-election, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Administration seems bent on taking up where Robinson and company left off.

How else can we explain the decision to detain Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Dana Seetahal?

What does that have to do with the Imam?

So, little has changed in the 25 years since 1990. In fact, in some ways, little has changed in the 50-plus years since Independence.

The Justice system in Trinidad and Tobago has not improved a little bit. Indeed, instead of improving, things have gone from bad to worse. Justice, which should be about being fair to all citizens of the nation, nowadays is, in fact, about who can sign the bigger cheque, about who has the larger pool of money to spend to pay a battery of lawyers.

In this country, there is nothing like human rights; there are only human wrongs. There is nothing like being innocent until proven guilty; you are guilty until you can prove your innocence. That is still the reality of the law and justice in Trinidad and Tobago in 2015.

Photo: Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr. (Courtesy Jyoti Communication)
Photo: Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr.
(Courtesy Jyoti Communication)

Ask the Imam, now suffering in the State’s prison despite his complete innocence of the crime with which they seem to be planning to charge him.

So I tell this story, my story, with almost complete contempt and disdain for what passes for justice in Trinidad and Tobago.

My name is Clive Lancelot Small aka Olive (pronounced OH-LEAVE) aka Olive Enyahooma-El. In 2004, I was extradited to the United States to face gun-related charges.

I was represented by Pamela Elder, SC, who is currently the State Prosecutor in the Jack Warner extradition matter. My case was heard by Justice Sebastian Ventour, who not so long ago was in the news for resigning on principle from the Integrity Commission.

He ruled that, at the time of commission of the alleged offences, there was no law under which I could be charged with those offences.

According to Justice Ventour, at the time of commission of the alleged offences, the schedule of offences for the Extradition Act under which a person could be extradited to face trial in a foreign country did not include the offence Conspiracy to Export Arms. He gave the State 24 hours to find such a law or release me.

Photo: Justice Sebastian Ventour quit as deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission. (Courtesy i95.5FM)
Photo: Justice Sebastian Ventour quit as deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission.
(Courtesy i95.5FM)

They found a law. Just for me, they made a law, released me and re-arrested me. Now it has to be noted too that I was held without a warrant and, as far as I am aware, without any evidence.

If the Trinidad and Tobago authorities had any evidence of my alleged wrongdoing, they never shared it with me. And I was not allowed bail.

I think I can say truly that my arrest and extradition were part of a government plan to get rid of anyone who was or was suspected of being involved in the 1990 attempted coup. It was, in my view, a government entrapment exercise. You might think that is laughable but is it?

When Lolita “Daughter” Saroop was sent to the US Virgin Islands to be tried for drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, was there an authentic bilateral treaty between the US and T&T? Was there?

My extradition was news but, true to form, the media only reported what they thought would sell. So nobody remembers—few people know—that I won a wrongful arrest case against the State.

I was awarded over $350,000 in damages for having been illegally arrested and detained. But I was not able to collect my money before I, a full-fledged citizen of Trinidad and Tobago—like Ishwar Galbaransingh, like Steve Ferguson, like Jack Warner—was packed off unceremoniously to the States at the behest of the US Attorney General.

Photo: Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government.
Photo: Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government.

On my return almost a dozen years later, I naturally sought to collect the monies owed to me in the sum of $357.154.75.

At the High Court, I was told to check with the Office of the Attorney General. I did. Day after day. Week after week. All I have been getting is the runaround.

The staff there say that there is documentation to show that a cheque in my name was received. There is, they say, no documentation available to tell me the date of receipt or where the cheque is currently lodged. And they can’t tell me where such documentation can be found.

My senior counsel attorney remains merely politely interested in my case, it seems to me, but she can’t advise me where to find the documentation either. She seems content to leave the matter in the State’s hands. If Justice Ventour chooses to rock the boat when he can eat a food, that is his choice.

And when there was an authentic bilateral treaty between the US and T&T in existence and the US requested the extradition of UNC financiers Galbaransingh and Ferguson on charges stemming from a billion dollar plot, did the pair ever leave these shores? Well, did they?

Warner, the Ex-FIFA vice-president who was once a big jefe in the UNC but now has his own party which is threatening to split the votes in some key constituencies, is facing charges stemming from widespread corruption in FIFA. The US indictment talks about racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in a 24-year-long scheme to enrich himself by corrupt means.

Photo: Former FIFA vice-president and Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Former FIFA vice-president and Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

After an initial hiccup that forced him to spend a night behind bars, Warner was allowed to post bail. But tell me honestly, do you think Warner is going anywhere?

Mind you, I am not bashing Ish and Steve and Jack. What I am doing is asking the question about justice in this country.

In 2005, my brother, Lenville Small, had a matter before Madame Justice Amrika Tewarie in the Hall of Justice. The police claimed to have found in his house a note—a “hit list,” they called it—with the names of five people involved in my extradition. Next to the five names—John Jeremie, Dana Seetahal, David West, Douglas Mendes and Sherman McNicholls—there were amounts of money ranging from $800,000 to $200,000.

For six days, he was detained without charge and only on the sixth day was he charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. His attorney, Jawara Mobota, made an ex-parte application seeking a writ of habeas corpus. But habeas corpus and everything else went out the window on the eleventh day when a phone call came through from on high.

My brother challenged the constitutionality of the legislation under which he had been held but the judge found nothing wrong with it. Making a forced connection between my brother and the 1990 attempted coup—his only connection to those events was me, his brother—the learned judge declared that “legislative efforts to protect the public interest by the proactive and focused targeting of such despicable conduct must be applauded and supported.”

Photo: A court room gavel.
Photo: A court room gavel.

What more evidence do we need that the system of justice in Trinidad and Tobago is corrupt? We are often told it is independent but a blind man can see that it is not. There are too many compromised people sitting in high places.

Elected representatives are put in place to govern, to regulate our affairs, to protect all citizens. We expect them to stand up for what is right. We expect them to ask questions when the rights and freedoms of our citizens are threatened. We do not expect them, elected or selected, to kowtow simply because the political directorate wishes X or Y to happen.

A few weeks ago, I heard David West—who was also in the news earlier in the year because he was brave enough to publicly support one politician and defy another—tell a reporter on the television that Mr Warner’s extradition can take as long as five years. Nobody told me that; I heard it with my own ears.

But in my case, the process did not take very long. West wrote the extradition warrant in his own hand and signed it. Later, on the witness stand, he made statements which were at least of questionable accuracy.

So I am grateful to Allah that he has granted me 80-plus years, long enough to see many of those who have been unjust to me go over to the other side. I watch with interest the latest attempt to use the Jamaat’s unpopularity to the government’s benefit.

I pray that I shall be around, Insha Allah, to see all those bent on the destruction of the Jamaat get their just deserts.

Photo: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Leader of Government Business Roodal Moonilal. (Courtesy Baltimore Post)
Photo: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Leader of Government Business Roodal Moonilal.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post)

And I close with a reminder to the Prime Minister and her cronies that good always defeats evil and that, although God may nod, he NEVER sleeps.

 

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles from Jamaat-al-Muslimeen members that give their account of the 1990 attempted coup in the build up to the 25th anniversary of July 27.

About Otancia Noel

Otancia Noel
Otancia Noel has a Literatures in English bachelor's degree at COSTAATT and is finishing a Masters in Fine Arts, Creative writing and Prose Fiction at UWI. She grew up on the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen compound in Mucurapo.

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99 comments

  1. Nice one Vernal Damion Cadogan. I might use that one day 😉

  2. Justice is like automobiles, one can only have the quality of each that one can afford.

  3. Justice is not for the poor…that is a given. Here and everywhere else the marginalised suffer within the in – justice system.

  4. I think we can probably say that Lancelot Small had a point…

  5. Earl Best

    And you have to agree with Jamal that the central issue has been shunted far out of the way. But careful reading reveals the real reason: people still apparently feel that Justice Brooks should not have declared the amnesty valid. Well, even if law-abiding people know that that’s all water under the bridge now, many of them don’t want to have anything to do with the Jamaat, including saying anything that might come across as approving of what they did in July 1990.

  6. Earl Best

    LL, Nerisha, Nicole, As far as I am aware, T&T did not pull out of anything to hang Dole or anyone else. Besides, countries don’t have to give their permission or to be come members or any such thing for Amnesty International to keep tabs on them. How many “members” would Amnesty have if that were the case? I think there was a convicted person – something Ashby, I believe – who was executed before he was able to take his case to the IACHR and that is what may be somewhere at the back of Nerisha’s and Nicole’s minds…

  7. Well, we did touch upon the abuse of justice in the anti gang legislation that seems to be abused by lawmen Jamaal Shabazz.
    But I think the broader issues raised were buried under the interest in the Dana case.

  8. No. Family have had to pay others. I am not in that business but I am deleting my comment for obvious reasons.

  9. Its deep how the contents of what Bro Lance Small has said is not addressed. Where the justice system is heavily in favour of a portion of the society. God have a way of balancing the society and then when he does all the so called lovers of democracy starts ranting and raving. And that is why Gid says in the Quran – and why should you not fight in the cause of God of men women and children who are illtreated and oppressed whose cry is…Our Lord raise for us from thee one who will rescue us from these people who are oppressors. …..God is Greatest Bro Olive . And according to 3 canal …he promise the fire next time … he promise he promise

    • Otancia Noel

      Trinidadian curry favour this is what we call corruption and injustice. Correct and good point Jamal I was wondering at this that people were not seeing the bigger picture here.

  10. You offering a service Jamela??

  11. Anyone here has a small business and pays for protection?

  12. I see Jack’s extradition papers finally reach! Big breaking news. Of course this is just a distraction from Kamla’s diva debate debacle. Like if Jack going anywhere anytime soon.

  13. Much thanks & I note your position. Mr. Small served his time & Mark Bassant briefly covers his case here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1457301/posts

  14. Well, not in this series Nicholas Lochan. There are many accounts of the attempted coup. This one is from the Muslimeen.

  15. Thanks and sorry I couldn’t explain it better.

  16. From the insurrections, I do not grasp any remorse, but the position of ‘we did what was needed or it had to happen’. I’d like to hear from the businesses/people who lost or suffered to know if the political landscape was that bad for such an this extreme decision [coup]

  17. What did you mean specifically when you ask about the other side Nicholas Lochan? This series would be interviews with several Jamaat members regarding the insurrection and the events that led to it.

  18. Lasana Liburd In Re: to the editor’s note at the end of the above article, I do hope that I can read from the other side. As a child in 1990, maybe I will better understand the unjust persecution that Mr. Lancelot Small received.

  19. When certain ppl on the day of Dana’s murder was reminiscing about how much of a help she was, how much she supported them, her brilliance and dedication to her work but is extremely silent when the investigation into her murder is still ongoing? Also has not ask questions as to why that is or lend support to her family? One just has to sit back, sip some tea and say ‘Hmmmmmmm’

  20. If any government is serious-pnm or unc- I want to know whay mechanisms they are going to put in place to protect the public purse. And there better not be innumerable commissions of enquiry that by the time they finish the statute of limitations runs out.

  21. And who to guard those guard-guarding guards? Lol. We are a long way from having this thing sorted out properly.

  22. Lasana Liburd and there are various things public servants have to protect against political interference and as checks and balances to prevent abuse of power including finance act, civil service regulations, integrity commission. Saw two PSs abuse that power and nothing done. Who to guard the guards?

  23. i think they pulled out of IACHR to hang Dole…not sure about Amnesty…also not sure if they ever re-signed

  24. Good question nerisha. Maybe someone can help us with that. I will ask around otherwise.

  25. Lasana Liburd are we still signatory to Amnesty International? I thought we pulled out to hang Dole Chadee etc

  26. All I will say is call names…sing like a canary, talk like a parrot and once and for all put the nation out of it’s 25 year misery.

  27. “” In 1990, the ANR Robinson Administration drove the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen to the point of no return.””
    Not sure I understand this statement.

    “” I watch with interest the latest attempt to use the Jamaat’s unpopularity to the government’s benefit.

    I pray that I shall be around, Insha Allah, to see all those bent on the destruction of the Jamaat get their just deserts.”

    Admitting to the Jamaat’s unpopularity (in 1990 and now?) ….

    Certainly no Mandela in approach.

  28. Well it have plenty material to write satire about floating around eh!!!!!

  29. All the national football teams out of competition. So I have more time to troll the 868 now!
    And maybe get back behind some satire too 🙂

  30. Now, if you tell me they want to give me the Kristian treatment… That is another story. They will have to take my shoelaces and belt from me one time!!

  31. yea boy…..Hyatt treatment at the state’s expense?! What could be better?!

  32. Hahahaha. I hope I get the Jack Warner Suite. Jacko said he got Hyatt treatment!

  33. For all we know they could probably use the Anti-Gang Legislation to designate Wired 868 a gang and lock up all ah all yuh!

  34. Exactly Lasana, they round up the ones who understand that danger you pose first.

  35. Yeah Vernal. They always go for the jackasses last! Hahaha

  36. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    *Martin Niemöller*

  37. hahahahaaaa…Good one Lasana Liburd

  38. I would think the police also knows the PM, Opposition Leader, AG and Police Commissioner. Funny they don’t throw them in a pick-up and use that line. Lol

  39. Vernal Damion Cadogan…try doh get ahead of yourself….picking up Abu don’t count….and that aint mean nobody else going to get pick up..and If you “known to the police” and they pick yuh up….yuh need to “know” different people…so hard luck

  40. Exactly Lasana Liburd, lest we forget that in the 1930s the fascists began arbitrarily picking people up.

  41. Careful eh Vernal..I was called all kinds of names for saying that 🙂

  42. LOL….you now get that Vernal Damion Cadogan?!

  43. Vernal Damion Cadogan, it is best to protest on the streets or in the polling station.
    I agree that they are abusing the law. How did they get warrant to hold Abu?
    That is a good starting point. Clearly we have to make it harder for them to pick up people for questioning.

  44. Because of his release I firmly believe the government was trying to provoke the Muslimeen to violence in order to justify a State of Emergency again.

  45. Vernal Damion Cadogan…I Nicole Ulerie will NEVER, NEVER, EVER have anything but contempt for the 114 persons that perpetrated that injustice against my nation…and as far as I can see..what ever troubles they find themselves …is just Karma being her beautiful self

  46. Lasana why? a ‘country named Amnesty International’ doe sell yellow dress?

  47. Well we accept that this is Bananistan then?