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Coup prober lists Sir Ellis as reference

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Dr Hafizool Mohammed

A cloud now hangs over the credibility of the commission of enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt, whose latest hearings are set to begin this morning.


Among the commissioners expected to sit at the 14th session of the enquiry at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Port-of-Spain, is Dr Hafizool Mohammed.


Last week he admitted to the Sunday Guardian he obtained his doctorate of science (DSc) in international relations from Atlantic International University (AIU), which is described by various Web sites as a diploma mill.


He said he knew it was not accredited by US educational institutions.


The commissioners were expected to met at the Hilton Trinidad yesterday evening to discuss the matter.


Now further investigations by the T&T Guardian have unearthed more discrepancies in his curriculum vitae (CV). Mohammed claims to have a degree from a prestigious military university in the US, which has never heard of him.


Among the referees he lists on his CV are a dead president of T&T and a non-existent president of Turkey.


When the T&T Guardian contacted Mohammed for comment yesterday, he hung up the phone.


Mohammed, originally from Dow Village, California, now lives in the US and has US citizenship. He is staying at the Hilton Trinidad.


Who exactly is Mohammed? No one seems to know. Yet a senior member of Cabinet insisted he should be selected as a member of the commission of enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt, which began sitting two years ago.


T&T’s first President Sir Ellis Clarke is among the names given as additional references on Mohammed’s CV, even though Sir Ellis died in December 2010 and is listed as deceased.


Clarke’s son, Peter, a director of Guardian Media Ltd, yesterday expressed surprise over his father’s inclusion, saying: “It is shocking someone would use a deceased person as reference.”





Mohammed’s referees

As for Ahmet Haluk Ozbuddun, whom Mohammed also listed as deceased and named as the president of Turkey on his CV, Ozbuddun never existed. Since 1923, following the Turkish War of Independence, there have been only 11 heads of state, and the name Ozbuddun is not among them.


Nor was anyone by that name ever the assistant secretary general of the United Nations, as  Mohammed claimed. His CV also lists as referees the chairman of the enquiry, Sir David Simmons, the former Chief Justice of Barbados, and its vice chairman, fellow Barbadian attorney Richard Cheltenham, QC.


Simmons, when contacted at the Hilton Trinidad yesterday, refused to comment on the latest developments. “You expect me to make a comment? I have no comment to make. Good morning and goodbye,” he said curtly. Cheltenham was expected to arrive in T&T from Barbados yesterday evening.


Several government ministers and officials also are listed on Mohammed’s CV. While mixing up the portfolios of the ministers, Mohammed listed as references Minister of Transport Chandresh Sharma, Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran and Minister of Public Utilities Nizam Baksh.  


In response to a text message, Sharma said: “I was not aware. In writing from me? Guess anyone can put any name as a reference.” Baksh, however, told the T&T Guardian while he had met Mohammed on two occasions he was unaware he was used as a reference.


Dookeran, T&T Guardian learned, is presently out of the country. T&T’s Ambassador to the United States Dr Neil Parsan, who is also Sharma’s nephew, is also listed along with former Chief of Defence Staff Brig Roland Maundy. Parsan could not be reached for comment yesterday. Maundy told the T&T Guardian he had not been told he was listed as a referee on Mohammed’s CV.


“I met him once in the US but I would think if you are listing someone as a reference you will call. I am glad I got this telephone call,” Maundy said. Not known here The American Military University, where Mohammed claimed in 2011 to have earned a master’s degree in national security studies as a distinguished graduate, has no record of him.


Contacted yesterday to confirm whether Mohammed graduated from the university in 2011, associate registrar Yvette Porter said: “We do not have any such student with that name in our database.” Porter said the other reasons a student’s name might not be listed in the database were changes due to marriage or divorce or misspelling on legal documents.


She added: “We do this all the time. I do about ten searches for the day. Unfortunately, students say they attended the school and they have not. “Based on the information provided, that name, that spelling — that student did not come here.”  


Asked how it was possible that Mohammed’s name was not listed as a graduate, Porter said: “The only reason it would not be in our database is if he was not a student here or he provided a different name.”



Insisting the database gives a thorough record of all past and present students enrolled at the university, Porter added: “I do not know how to say it any differently. No one with that name has ever been a student at this school. No one with the spelling of that name has been a student of this school, ever.”



Most scandalous ever

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley described the latest development as a “travesty.” He added: “The appointment is in the same vein as former director of the Strategic Services Agency Reshmi Ramnarine. “This Government is consistently appointing people unqualified and unsuitable for positions, against the public interest.


“Who selected this man and what is the connection to the Government?” Rowley asked. Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said a dead man could not be listed as a reference. “This appointment is going down as the most scandalous ever in the history of T&T.



In fact, it should go down in the Guinness Book of Records because it would be the first time a dead man could recommend someone. Maybe the Cabinet has a special connection in hell or heaven,” Maharaj said.


Senior Counsel Reginald Armour said the Sunday Guardian’s report on the appointment of Mohammed gave rise for concern. "I will be concerned further if the most recent information given, in connection with the information from the American Military University, suggests that his security credentials are now in question, given that I understand that to be an important consideration in his selection to be a tribunal member," Armour said.


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