In a Trinidad Guardian article published on 12 October 2016, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi claimed that his family received a threat assessment and instruction from the Defence Force after “umpteen death threats” since he assumed office.
“The security agencies indicated that it was imperative that international protocols for training [when] people are exposed to threats had to be delivered by the security forces to me and to my family,” Al-Rawi told the Guardian. “[…] Upon the instructions of the army in particular, my family was taken up to the Cumuto base where instructions [about] threats to our persons were provided.”
By letter to Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams on 13 April 2017, Fixin’ T&T asked whether the threats to the Attorney General were reported to the Police and, if yes, when. Williams, according to Fixin’ T&T, is yet to respond.
The following are responses from then Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj to Fixin’ T&T questions on Al-Rawi’s trip to Cumuto, which culminated in photographs of his children using high-power weapons:
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 12 June 2017, on the subject at caption. I have read the article published in the Trinidad Guardian on 12 October 2016 and I have noted the comments made by the Attorney General, the Honourable Faris Al-Rawi.
Your letter listed seven questions being asked of me in relation to the article referenced in the Trinidad Guardian. I wish to advise that given the likelihood of this matter being brought before the Courts in Trinidad and Tobago, I am exercising caution where, in my opinion, I should reserve that right pursuant to my own interests.
In view of the above please be advised of my responses to your questions as follows:
Fixin T&T: As the CDS were you a member of the National Security Council?
Retired General Maharaj: I was not a member. I was a primary advisor to the NSC on matters of defence and security. In that regard, my attendance at NSC meetings was upon the direction of the Chairman (The Prime Minister), the Minister of National Security or on my own request if I needed to inform or propose on matters pertaining to the Defence Force.
Fixin T&T: As the CDS would you be among those advised of threats made to the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago?
Maharaj: My expectation (based on experience) is in the affirmative, since the Defence Force provides close protection services to the Attorney General. Moreover, the CDS, as head of the Armed Forces should continually be kept updated on the threat environment especially at the strategic and operational levels.
Fixin T&T: Were you at any time at all aware of threats made to the Attorney General Farris Al-Rawi and Minister Stewart Young?
Maharaj: No I was not.
Fixin T&T: Is it conventional practice for the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) to conduct threat assessments and subsequently give instructions to Government Ministers?
Maharaj: The term “threat assessment” is a wide ranging one that spans a broad spectrum of national security interests. At the highest level it is an integrated process. At the operational level it is based on joint efforts of the TTDF and TTPS and other relevant stakeholders. However, given law enforcement primacy when the issue is that of threats to individuals (citizens) it falls under the remit of the Police (TTPS) who may seek the assistance of the TTDF in intelligence gathering efforts and analysis.
If directed by the Minister of National Security, the TTDF may be engaged on occasions, to conduct threat assessments on critical national infrastructure on land or in the maritime domain. This is also a matter of government policy on national security.
With respect to the giving of instructions to Government Ministers, the TTDF is not so legislatively positioned or authorized.
Fixin T&T: As the CDS would you necessarily know of any threat assessment conducted and subsequent instruction given to any Government Minister by the TTDF?
Maharaj: Since the primary responsibility for the threat assessment of Government Ministers resides with the Special Branch TTPS, it is possible that such an assessment can be undertaken without my knowledge. But in respect of the TTDF, there are several serious contraventions to military Regulations, Orders and Chain of Command systems, if a TTDF person is acting independently on the basis of instructions from an external entity regarding the conduct of a threat assessment on a Government Minister.
As stated in response to the previous question, the TTDF does not give instructions to Government Ministers. However, under the ambit of Standard Operating Procedures applicable to personal protection services, the issuing of instructions to a Government Minister in relation to threats to his/her person must be placed in context.
A Personal Protection Specialist is duty-bound to issue instructions during a situation of violence or when there is a clear and present danger affecting a Principal (a Protected Person). These instructions would form part of the reaction to effective enemy fire drills together with all other actions taken to protect the Principal.
Fixin T&T: If the TTDF becomes aware of threats to the Attorney General can and/or does the TTDF take an independent and unilateral action to investigate and determine the veracity of same?
Maharaj: No unilateral action would be taken by the TTDF in such circumstances. Information would be provided to the TTPS whose duty/responsibility it is to investigate, confirm and advise the Executive on such threats. The TTDF would provide support to the TTPS as requested or transmit information gathered that may assist the TTPS in its investigations.
Fixin T&T: Can anyone other than a member of the TTDF authorize or extend invitations to a military compound?
Maharaj: The Minister of National Security can “authorize” persons to visit a military base in specific/special circumstances in consultation with the Chief of Defence Staff. In such circumstances, the “authority” is in essence an “approval” for a visit which is ultimately managed by communicating ( through the office of the CDS), the intent and details of such a visit to the Commanding Officer of the respective Formation (Regiment, Coast Guard, Air Guard, Reserves) applying the necessary protocols, security and administrative arrangements, control measures and supervision.
It should be noted that the authority of the Minister of National Security is provided for in Sections 8 and 191 of the Defence Act. No other non-TTDF person can exercise authority as outlined or implied in the question.
I trust that the above responses will assist in your efforts to unearth the truth that we all seek in the matter pertaining to the children of the Attorney General handling high-powered weapons belonging to the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.
Kenrick Maharaj Major General (Retired)