Blow up the Red House and kill everybody.
That was one of the options of Brigadier Ralph Brown for crushing the July 1990 uprising by Jamaat al Muslimeen insurrectionists.For him, an amnesty was out of the question, Brown told the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt while giving evidence at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
Brown, who was in charge of the regiment during the uprising said:
"I heard the word amnesty. I wanted no part of that. From a military point of view the situation was contained."The brigadier also cleared the air about the army's alleged support for the insurgents, stating he never got those instructions from his superiors."Negotiate a solution out of the situation, storm the building or blow up the Red House and kill everybody," Brown said, listing his options at the time.However, the brigadier later told the commission the option to blow up the Red House "was not an option at all."It would have involved too much killing," he said.He said his preferred option was to negotiate but said the army had plans to storm the Red House.
He said British-trained Major Derek, operations officer, started making plans to storm the Red House and Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT), where Government Ministers and civilians were being held hostage by the Muslimeen. That, he recalled, included getting a layout of the Red House from then acting president, Emmanuel Carter, who worked in the building for many years and knew every corridor and office. He added: "We sent for a military draughtsman. I had to okay the plan. We were doing a similar exercise at TTT with Bernard Pantin (former broadcaster)."Subsequent to the completion of the exercise we became aware that an amnesty document was signed by Carter."
No army support
Brown said he was highly incensed when he heard leader of the uprising, Yasin Abu Bakr, telling the nation on TTT after they had seized the station that the army was on their side.He said: "I didn't think for a moment that was so. I am a Christian. I worship at the All Saints' Anglican Church."I knew that one or two soldiers were Muslims and worshiped at the mosque (Jamaat's)."Brown said he escorted Pantin and a TTT crew to Cumberland Hill where the television transmitters were located."We shot off the lock with an SLR rifle and the technicians cut off the TTT transmission and hooked up the outside broadcast," he added.Addressing the nation then, Brown said the Government had not fallen, that the army did not collaborate with the rebels or had any intention to.
He assured the nation there were Government ministers on the outside who were taking charge, he recalled."We said the army was in charge and will take control of the situation," Brown told the commission.He also refuted allegations, made by Brigadier Carl Alfonso, while giving evidence earlier, that he (Brown) did not contact him from the command base at Camp Ogden for four days.Alfonso, commanding officer of the Support and Services Battalion (SSB) at the time, said he was basically left in the dark at Teteron. Brown said: "Either me or a staff officer would have communicated with the CO of SSB."I have evidence with him communicating with one of his juniors at Camp Ogden."
Noting that of"Alfonso would have been privy to instructions given to Col Hugh Vidale (commanding officer of the first battalion in charge of Camp Ogden)." He further denied he called Alfonso after the surrender of the Muslimeen and told him to find somewhere for them to stay and hung up.Alfonso, in giving evidence, said he asked Brown where to put the Muslimeen and he was told you are the ... commanding officer."Noting that he was "appalled" at this, Brown told the commission:
"Col Joe Theodore (then chief of Defence Staff) and I would have to be two madmen to say to the SSB CO we are sending 114 Muslimeen, find somewhere for them to stay and not give instructions on where to put them."The decision to put them in Fisheries (in Chaguaramas) was made by Theodore and myself (not Alfonso)."Adding he took issue with newspaper reports on Alfonso's criticism of the army's performance during the uprising, Brown asked the commission to defend the honour of his soldiers when he next gave evidence.Brown and members of the Jamaat are expected to give evidence today.