National Security Minister Gary Griffith said yesterday retired Brig Gen Ralph Brown had a political agenda when he came out and described soldier patrols in Laventille as illegal.Griffith was responding to criticism of him on Tuesday by Independent Senator Helen Drayton, who defended Brown's statement. He was speaking a media conference at his ministry, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain.Drayton had said that Griffith was "out of place" and "out of sync" to attack Brown, who commented in a letter to the editor on Sunday.
She said the alleged abuse of civilians by soldiers could undermine the process of justice.But Griffith said: "If General Brown was really worth his salt, what he would have done is to contact Major Gen Kenrick Maharaj, as other people will do. That was a deliberate political agenda and I have a problem with that."What Major General Brown did was wrong. It was inappropriate and it was blatant disrespect to the Defence Force and my job is to protect them at all costs and to ensure they go out there and do their job."
Griffith expressed his disappointment with Brown's statements especially given his expertise.The National Security Minister said he was concerned by the fact that there was a deliberate accusation that soldiers were operating illegally.He added: "And your way of trying to deal with a situation is to take all of them and tell them to go back to barracks.
"That I think is disrespect to the Defence Force... you are questioning their professionalism, their performance and that is my concern. My point is, do not point fingers and accuse the Defence Force of operating illegally,"He said if there were concerns that information should be taken to the police.Maharaj, who was also at the press conference, described Brown as a "respected predecessor" and said since his departure from the Defence Force in 1995 the environment has changed significantly.
Contacted yesterday, Brown said he had no further comment.Griffith also criticised Drayton, saying she had a problem with every single decision made by the Ministry of National Security.
What Brown said
Brown, in his letter to the editor, labelled patrols by soldiers in Laventille as illegal.He called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, as head of the National Security Council, to bring a halt to the patrols "and thrash out this matter once and for all" with acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and Chief of Defence Staff Major Gen Kenrick Maharaj over who exactly ordered the patrols.
Brown wrote: "The acting commissioner has ordered his officers to arrest and charge any soldier found committing an offence, this in response to questions posed to him by journalists about the legality of soldiers patrolling Laventille without policemen in attendance."The acting commissioner went further to state that neither he nor the Chief of Defence Staff has ordered the patrols which are being undertaken by the soldiers.
"If the soldiers are in fact patrolling, it would be interesting to know who ordered the patrols."It follows that if the acting commissioner did not request the patrols and the Chief of Defence Staff did not order them, then the patrols are in fact illegal under the law, and as the acting commissioner has stated, they should be arrested."This is a recipe for chaos and/or confrontation between police and soldiers, something we have worked hard over the years at 'arresting.'"