“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
A 35-year-old man from Morvant, who claims he was kidnapped, beaten and threatened by a group of Coast Guard officers for no apparent reason, has signalled his intention to sue the Defence Force. In a pre-action protocol letter sent to Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj on November 27, Varun Debideen, the lawyer representing Kevin Bartholomew, said his client wished to sue the State for kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault and battery.
Debideen described the incident as unwarranted and unprovoked and said it caused his client to suffer “severe loss, pain, damage, inconvenience, mental anxiety and humiliation.” “The actions of these officers against (Bartholomew) are vulgar and reprehensible to the highest extreme and they cannot be allowed to engage in these activities under the cloak of the State,” Debideen said.
In an interview at the T&T Guardian office at St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, on Friday, Bartholomew said he was abducted while standing outside his mother’s Second Caledonia Road, Morvant, home on November 14, last year. He said around 7 pm, he was standing on the road in front of the house when a blue pick-up truck, bearing a Coast Guard registration number, pulled alongside him and four men came out of the vehicle.
Bartholomew said at first he did not recognise any of the men, who were all armed and wearing Coast Guard uniforms. “I then realised that one of the men from the van was a man he knew. I know him since I small,” Bartholomew said. He said the men bundled him into the van and drove to a desolate area off the Lady Young Road in Morvant. “They drag me out of the van and started beating me again. One of the men hold me in a head lock and the other held my two hands behind my back,” Bartholomew said.
He claimed that while he was being restrained, the man he recognised drew a rifle and stuck the barrel in his mouth. “Whilst they had the gun in my mouth they said if I go back to the police station they would come down, kick down my door and kill me,” Bartholomew said. He said he was able to break free from his attackers after they were startled by the headlights of an oncoming car.
“I happen to break loose and started to run down a precipice, through some bushes and a track to a road where I meet four men liming,” Bartholomew said. He said the men gave him a lift to the Morvant Police Station where he reported the incident. Bartholomew said he and his family are fearing for their safety, as they believe the officers may return because the incident was reported. “I always have to watch my back now because they know where I live. I not here for revenge, I want justice,” Bartholomew said.
When contacted for a response on Friday afternoon, Coast Guard public relations officer Lt Commander Kirk Jean-Baptiste acknowledged that the Defence Force had received the legal letter and said his claims were now subject to an internal investigation. “He (Bartholomew) has made allegations which are currently engaging the Coast Guard and the police,” Jean-Baptiste said.
While he said he did not want to comment further on the legal aspect of Bartholomew’s complaint he said he was aware of the situation between him and the man he recognised, the Coast Guard officer.