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Former PM bodyguard tells commission: Birds warned me of coup (with CNC3 video)
Retired Special Branch inspector Kenrick Thong got a mysterious sign from a flock of “crows” at the Prime Minister’s residence at La Fantasie on July 27, 1990, that something terrible was going to happen that day. A limping Thong, who lost a leg by gunfire during the attempted overthrow of the Government by Jamaat al Muslimeen insurrectionists that day, made the startling disclosure at the commission of enquiry at the Caribbean Court of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
Warning commission chairman Sir David Simmons he would not believe what he was about to tell him, Thong said: “Something took place at the Prime Minister’s residence that day. I got a sign. “Plenty birds started attacking the Prime Minister’s car. It was a clear sign.” Thong was one of National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson’s bodyguards. He was driving out of La Fantasie around 1.30 pm to meet Robinson at Piarco Airport when the birds attacked the PM’s car, he recalled.
Around 6 pm that day, the insurgents stormed the Red House and held parliamentarians hostage for six days. Several people died in shoot-outs between the regiment and the rebels. Thong said he told a police officer he referred to as Macmillan about his premonition. Macmillan, now an assistant superintendent, says he never forgot it, Thong told the commission. “The Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” Simmons remarked.
Simmons, however, asked Thong to forget about the birds and reminded him that, leading up to July 27, he also had some tangible signs the Muslimeen were planning something. He reminded Thong there were street marches and demonstrations, and he saw the Muslimeen training and marking Robinson from the Twin Towers and along the Priority Bus Route.
Thong had told the commission that as part of the Prime Minister’s escort detail, he would often observe the same men at these locations. He said while he and other Special Branch officers were doing bodyguard protection training, he would see Muslimeen members in army garb training at Macqueripe in Chaguaramas, Lady Young Road, Lady Chancellor Hill and at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
“I got the impression they were training for something in particular,” he said. “There was a tension in the air something was going to happen...I didn’t know when.” Simmons commented: “You were observing some strange movements with the Muslimeen regarding the Prime Minister you were supposed to protect.” Thong said he never reported these observations because “everybody knew,” including senior Special Branch officers from the intelligence unit.
Asked if the observations produced a heightened alertness in him regarding protecting the Prime Minister, Thong replied, “No.” He told the commission about the ordeal of losing his leg in gunfire from a Muslimeen rebel on July 27, 1990. He had dropped off Robinson to the Red House and was near the PM’s car on the Abercromby Street side when he saw a group of men in army camouflage and Muslim headwear running up the street shooting indiscriminatelty at the building.
Thong took out the Uzi machine gun from the car and opened fire on the men while running towards the underground vault at the Red House looking for cover. He felt an impact and discovered his right shin bone had been shattered. A Muslimeen rebel shot him and went his merry way up the Red House stairs, he said.
“I took off my jersey and banded my leg and dragged on my bottom to the southern side of the Red House and lay down in a drain.” He said a man in civilian clothes with a gun saw him and started firing and, barebacked, Thong started to “backpeddle” in the drain while firing back at the man with his Uzi. He said he dragged himself to another underground vault where he remained in relative safety until he was rescued and taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
He lost consciousness and when he woke up, realised his leg had been amputated, he told the commission. Late NAR minister Selwyn Richardson helped him to get a prosthetic leg in Venezuela and he was given $126,000 in compensation by the UNC government in 1996, he disclosed. Thong said the Special Branch named a library after him, honouring him for being wounded in the line of duty.
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