Last update: 12-Dec-2013 3:31 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Sir David cries ‘foul’ over Bakr’s non-appearance
Chairman of the commission of enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup Sir David Simmons is urging the government to move swiftly and implement legislation to reform the commission of enquiry act of T&T. He said so as Jamaat al Muslimeen leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, who led the bloody July 27, 1990 attempted insurrection again failed to appear before the commission to testify as public hearings closed yesterday. The enquiry lasted 116 days. Simmons said Bakr “did not have the courage” to appear to say why the then NAR government, led by former prime minister Arthur NR Robinson, should have been overthrown.
Summing up the proceedings Simmons suggested that government look at the legislation of Canada and how that country treats with commissions of enquiry. He said, “As a result of the Clico Commission and this commission the government should give very serious consideration to reform the Commission of Enquiry Act.” In the Clico enquiry summons were also issued for witnesses who failed to appear. Under the Commission of Enquiry’s Act Bakr would be fined $2,000 for non-attendance and failing to provide a reasonable explanation to the commission for his absence.
On September 9, a fresh summons was issued for Bakr to make an appearance yesterday but even senior lawyers said they were not surprised he failed to show. Simmons, who said the attendance issue of Bakr had “gone through some gymnastics” added, the “goal post gradually moved” as the Jamaat leader also gave excuses why he should not appear. Simmons also recounted September last year, when Bakr did not appear at the enquiry as he (Bakr) wanted to defer his testimony after his sedition trial in the High Court, as he did not want adverse publicity to affect the case by his testifying at the enquiry.
On September 3, last year, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, suggested to the commission that Bakr’s testimony be given in camera and also assured Bakr’s testimony would not be used to mount a case of bad character in his sedition trial. In June, Bakr said he would appear at the enquiry only if he was paid as much as Simmons. Saying he “paid no attention to what Bakr said outside” Simmons added, “He had every opportunity to come in here (enquiry). Three of his co-conspirators exposed themselves to cross examination. “He was the leader and yet he hasn’t got the courage to give his evidence. And so the goal post moved from a fair trial to he will come providing he get the same fees as me.” Simmons said since the attempted coup, Bakr had not had “the search light put on him” because he had not exposed himself to any tribunal. Saying Bakr’s absence has led to some sense of “frustration” Simmons said this would lead some members of the public to believe the commission was a waste of time.
Simmons however, assured this was not the case as testimonies would provide future generations about an important piece of the country’s history. He said the report would also include recommendations on how the events of July 27 could be properly honoured. Although the public sittings have concluded Simmons said if it became necessary, the commission would sit in camera. The report is expected to be released in the next four months. Commissioner Sir Richard Cheltenham, SC, was absent yesterday as he was said to be unwell. Simmons said Cheltenham complained of feeling unwell last Friday and returned to Barbados on Saturday. Simmons said he was supposed to return in time for yesterday’s sitting but was instructed by his doctor to take a week’s rest.
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