The man who uttered the now infamous statement "Who is your leader," former Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Joseph Toney became the third official of the Arthur NR Robinson Government to give evidence before the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 Attempted Coup staged by 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen on July 27 of that year.
Toney, who was at the time contributing to the debate in the House of Representatives, was
questioned by lead counsel Avory Sinanan SC. The following are extracts of Toney's testimony.
Counsel: While you were making your contribution what happened?
Toney: There is a TV clipping which tells everything. Whilst making a contribution about a quarter to six, I heard what sounded to me like pans clanging against the pavement outside and I thought it was a vagrant whom I saw earlier on when I was coming to the Parliament. He was kicking around some pans outside the Parliament. I thought it was him carrying on again.
So I heard this noise, this clanging of pans and then I heard it was getting closer and closer to me. At that time I turned around and I watched. I saw men burst into the Parliament dressed in army uniform and they were shouting and shooting at the ceiling and all around. I thought it was a military take-over and then as they got closer to me they kept running and shooting. They started these Muslim chants Allah U Akbar! Allah U Akbar! And then I realised that it was maybe Muslim men dressed in military garb. They shot up the place and they called on everybody to get down, get down.
Counsel: At that time did you think it was the Muslimeen?
Toney: No, I didn't think it was the Muslimeen but I knew that there was a Muslim connection because of what they were saying.
Counsel: At that time you were acting Leader of Government Business?
Toney: I was.
Counsel: And therefore you occupied the first seat on the Government benches?
Toney: Yes, to the right of the Speaker. I got down and we were told to keep your heads down and they continued to shoot up the place. Before we got down they were shouting "Where Robbie? Where Sello? Where the IMF man..." They were shouting all the time that "the NAR Government wicked, Robinson wicked," we take away the COLA, we take away the ten per cent (reduction in salary), we're taking instructions from the IMF, we're not running the country well, they eh want to give we the medicine, they take away we land.
Counsel: In relation to the complaint about the medicine, you knew what they were talking about?
Toney: No, but afterwards I got to find out ... when I came from the Red House, they, I am told, got a container-load of medicine to be distributed as ,they said, for communities and there was some problem with it coming into the country via the Customs. That was what they were referring to as far as I gathered.
Counsel: So they were tying up people and making these accusations ?
Counsel: Could you continue from there?
Toney: Well, they were making sure they had everything under control and then the shooting started from outside-people started shooting-I don't know who it was and after this they singled out both Mr Robinson and Mr Richardson for special treatment because they took them aside and I heard slaps and thuds-and, in particular, Mr Richardson was bawling, "Oh God, all you hitting me, all you hitting me, doh hit me"-you were hearing these slaps and what seemed to be like a heavy inflicting of blows on the two of them. I didn't hear Mr Robinson saying anything. He was silent but Mr Richardson was in some pain.
Counsel: Well after the invasion did you see first of all the uniformed policemen again?
Toney: Well, I couldn't raise my head.
Counsel: At any other time during your stay at the Red House ...
Toney: No, no, no, I didn't see any policemen.
Counsel: What happened after that?
Toney: There was some shooting, you had the shooting coming from outside and they (Muslimeen inside) were responding and then having beaten Mr Robinson they then asked him to tell the forces outside to back off because if they continued shooting, they would endanger everyone. They gave him this walkie talkie (radio set) and told him tell the forces outside to back off, words to that effect, because they (Muslimeen) are in control now and if they (State forces) continued like this, many people will be killed.
And I heard Mr Robinson say these people are torturers and murderers and vagabonds and "Attack with full force" and then of course I heard a gunshot and Mr Robinson started bawling in pain. "You all have shot me. I am going to die. I am prepared to die for my country, you all are going to kill me. I am going to die for my country" and he kept repeating that on and on and on. And I think they tried to stop him from saying those words.
I heard the voice of Dr Emmanuel Hosein saying "All you don't do that, all you don't do that. If all you do that all you will kill him." And I got the impression that they backed off. But he continued moaning and groaning "I will die for my country, I will die for my country."
Counsel: And at around what time ...?
Toney: I will say that would have been probably about between 6.30 and 7.00 o'clock.
Counsel: As early as that?
Toney: Okay, that would have been early. Maybe between 7.30 and 8.00 o'clock... around that time. Parliament was scheduled to over at six o'clock. We were planning to go to a football game and this thing happened and by the time they took to bring things under control it would have been about an hour or so. So that would have been between 7.30 and 8.30.
Counsel: Was the attitude of your captors toward you aggressive and hostile?
Toney: Of course, of course, of course. Clearly their intent was to humiliate us and kill us if necessary. There was fire. They were all armed. Some of them had two guns and they were pointed to us at all times. Their intent was bad.