On the sixth day of the attempted takeover of the country on July 27, 1990, after the army was given a ceasefire instruction, Colonel Michael Clarke fired an anti-tank B 300 rocket into Trinidad & Tobago Television (TTT). The B 300 rocket had the potential to cause severe structural damage to the building.
This was disclosed by Clarke himself to the Commission of Enquiry into the attempted coup at the Caribbean Court of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday. Clarke, during the attempted coup d'etat, was in charge of one of the two platoons that had surrounded TTT which was seized by Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr and some 68 of his followers.
Trained at Sandhurst Military Academy in England, Clarke said his primary reason was to let the "lawbreakers" know what time of day it was, that the army was outside and the officers were serious.
He said his Sandhurst training taught him that a B 300 can be used as a strategy to bring a heavy weight of fire to neutralise a situation and contain the enemies. His second reason was to create a hole in the building through which they could enter if they had to storm TTT. Clarke said his decision to fire the heavy artillery caused him to be later heavily reprimanded by his superiors. For the same reason, he also came under heavy fire from the commission's lead counsel Avory Sinanan and some of the commissioners.
Sinanan told Clarke that he allowed human feeling to dictate his decision to fire the rocket and described it as "errant military strategy". Clarke countered that he doubted whether it was errant and said he would not categorically state that he would not do it again, even if he might employ better judgment. "The rifle seemed not to be telling them anything. We needed something with a bigger pound to show them the army was outside and we were serious," he insisted. Questioned whether he did not think that the hostages inside TTT might have been hurt, Clarke said his information was that they were not on the side of the building that he and his platoon had covered. He also said he did not give that thought a total analysis.
Clarke was questioned so much about the firing of the B 300 after ceasefire instructions were given, that he seemed to have lost his cool in the enquiry and told Sinanan that he had a difficulty in how he was couching his questions. He said the line of questioning seemed to suggest he and his platoon were disobeying instructions. At that point, commission chairman Sir David Simmons had to intervene and caution Clarke that his role was not to engage counsel in cross talk or quarrel. "Are you unhappy giving evidence?" Simmons asked him. "You seem to have come with an attitude that is somewhat hostile to counsel. "You have brought a new dimension to the enquiry. We have not had this as yet."
Clarke said he just wanted to be precise and apologised if he came across as antagonistic. The colonel further laid to rest any notion that the army was sympathetic to Bakr and his men. He said he read former insurgent Jamaal Shabazz' evidence in which he implied support or non-response by the army concerning the coup d'etat. "I really don't know who would give him such an illusion, that my army would sit idly by and let lawbreakers take over the country," Clarke said.