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Theodore: Defence Force in Dark about agreement
The Defence Force which successfully put down the 1990 uprising after six days, was kept in the dark by government ministers on the agreement reached with Jamaat al Muslimeen insurgents. This came out yesterday at the Commission of Enquiry sitting into the July 1990 coup attempt at the Caribbean Court of Justice where Brigadier Joseph Theodore, former army chief, gave evidence. “It seems he was kept in the dark,” Commission chairman Sir David Simmons interjected.
Theodore said to this day he has never seen the agreement which gave the insurrectionists freedom. Theodore said it was Bilal Abdullah, who led the Muslimeen attack on the Red House, who told him about the agreement. “No minister ever came to me and said “this is the amnesty”. I stuck to original instructions (from the political directorate) until the end of the hostage ordeal.” Theodore said his role was to be chief negotiator with Abdullah, who held government ministers hostage at the Red House, and to secure the hostages release.
“I was not sure if the ministers felt it was prudent to inform us, in case it affected negotiations. I never made myself interested. I felt that matter would be handled by the political directorate,” he said. Lead counsel for the Commission Avory Sinanan put it to Theodore that he was being diplomatic about the matter and it may have, in fact, been wiser to inform him of the agreement. Theodore admitted that during the hostage crisis at the Red House, while he was negotiating with Abdullah, former National Security Minister Selwyn Richardson was doing the same thing.
“It seemed there was some level of negotiation taking place. I felt it didn’t help. I was taking one line of argument and something else was being discussed alongside to what I was discussing.” Theodore said this situation caused him concern and he reported the matter to Herbert Atwell, another minister. He still was not made privy to the agreement. Theodore said the points of agreement, which included the Muslimeen’s demand for a general election in 90 days, did not affect the army’s main aim--to secure the hostages’ release.
Simmons, quoting historian Professor James Millette in Kirk Meighoo’s book, “Politics in a Half-Made Society”, said the army and police opposed the agreement as soon as it was made. Theodore said that was not true at all. He said the army was not privy to the agreement. He said ministers who were outside functioned like a small Cabinet at the army’s Camp Ogden base and held ministerial meetings from which he and Col Ralph Brown, another senior army officer at the time, excluded themselves.
“We felt we would have been hard pressed to oppose the agreement,” he said. He said since the 1970 mutiny within the army, it has not been receiving the kind of State resources it needs. He said the army had requested a number of security items, including vehicles, and after 1990, were promised all kinds of things. Theodore said up to the time he retired none of these things had turned up.
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