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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Former acting clerk of House: Ex-Speaker tried to get Libyan plane to land
While he was Speaker of the House, Nizam Mohammed tried to arrange for the landing of a Libyan aircraft during the 1990 attempted overthrow of the government by Jamaat al Muslimeen insurgents, visited a Saudi Arabian prince shortly after and had met with a Muslimeen top-ranker beforehand.
These disclosures were made yesterday at the commission of enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup by former acting clerk of the House Raphael Cumberbatch as he gave evidence.
Mohammed served as Speaker during the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government’s regime, after which he went into political oblivion.
He resurfaced when he was appointed chairman of the Police Service Commission after the People’s Partnership came into office in May 2010 but was fired in April 2011.
Mohammed said there was an ethnic imbalance in the Police Service and shortly after had his appointment revoked by President George Maxwell Richards.
Cumberbatch, who worked in Parliament for almost two decades, was held hostage when the Muslimeen invaded the Red House.
He recalled he was released shortly after by Bilal Abdullah, who appeared to know him personally from Belmont.
He recalled that Mohammed left Parliament on July 27, 1990 after the 4.30 pm tea break, saying he was going for prayers at the Munroe Road mosque, Chaguanas.
He said a reliable member of the Parliament staff told him former Death Row prisoner Andy Thomas, who had been released on a presidential pardon and became Omowale Abdullah after he joined the Muslimeen, visited Mohammed in the Speaker’s Office on two occasions a few months before the coup attempt.
Cumberbatch said a few years after the uprising, he was also reliably informed that Mohammed, while he was Speaker, attempted to facilitate the granting of landing rights to a Libyan aircraft within a day or two of July 27, 1990.
Almost as soon as the six-day insurrection was over, some time between August 6 and 8, Cumberbatch said, he arranged for Mohammed to visit Saudi Arabia on the invitation of a prince.
It was not government business, he said, and it was left to him and government ministers to hastily reconvene Parliament at the Central Bank auditorium, since the Red House was damaged and unfit to be occupied.
A Parliament was urgently needed in order to declare a state of emergency, Cumberbatch explained. He said the Parliament staff who worked tirelessly to re-establish Parliament after the coup were among the unsung heroes of the event.
However, when the Parliament met, Mohammed was still absent because he had gone to Saudi Arabia and deputy speaker, Dr Anselm St George, who had been among the hostages, was too traumatised to preside.
Attorney Theodore Guerra, now deceased, was elected to serve as speaker, Cumberbatch recalled. The enquiry continues today in camera.