Former Jamaat al Muslimeen second in command, Bilal Abdullah, who led some 20 Muslims in an attack on the Red House on July 27, 1990, appeared to be in communication with certain people outside, including persons linked to the protective services, while he held Government ministers and others hostage in the Parliament chamber. This was disclosed by Joseph Toney, former National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) Government minister in 1990 and Red House hostage, as he gave evidence in the commission of enquiry into the events surrounding the attempted coup being held at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
"I got the impression he was speaking to Abu Bakr (Jamaat al Muslimeen leader) at Trinidad and Tobago Television (scene of another attack) and certain people in the country," he said. Toney said at one time, Abdullah told people in the Red House a Government minister had called for foreign intervention. The Muslimeen insurgents had made the Government ministers they were holding hostage sign a document stating that no foreign intervention was to be allowed in the affairs of T&T and they felt betrayed, he said. At another point during the insurrection, he added, Abdullah appeared to be in contact with security forces outside or someone linked to them.
The army had surrounded the Red House and was shooting at anything looking like a Muslimeen rebel and the Muslimeen were firing at anything looking like a soldier, he said. Toney told the commission that Abdullah disclosed in the Red House during the hostage crisis that the security forces outside were trying to bring the situation under control. Abdullah said some members of the security forces did not like that idea and were firing without direction from supervisors, Toney said. Abdullah described these soldiers as "delinquent", he said.
He told the hostages that as they went out, it was quite possible there would be sniper fire from these delinquent soldiers, Toney added. He further told the commission that after the coup attempt, when he was national security minister in the NAR Government, information came to him that certain individuals assisted the Jamaat al Muslimeen during the uprising. He said the matter was investigated by Special Branch who had tapes of conversations of persons suspected of assisting the Jamaat. Asked if he got a report on the results of the investigations, Toney said: "I was told verbally the investigations did not bear fruit.'
He said while they were held hostage, he got a message to his wife via telephone, and asked her to get the parliamentarians outside to help them go home. He added: "Those on the outside took a decision not to bother with us. They couldn't care less. They were eating and drinking at the Hilton. If we were killed, so be it. "This was the message that was relayed back to me from Abdullah." Toney said after he was released he was told that was a tactic used by those advising the government. "I was told they were playing for time to wear down the captors," he said.Further, then UNC MP, John Humphrey, caused the hostages to be kept in the Red House another day, Toney said.
He said the Muslimeen were getting ready to release the hostages when Humphrey told Abdullah: "Get that in writing. Remember what happened with the soldiers. "We stayed another day," Toney said. "My colleagues were quite upset. They wondered which side he was on." Toney, telling of his personal experience, said when the Muslimeen asked for a lawyer to start negotiations, he had to crawl on his belly across the floor, with his hands tied, while gunshots aimed at the Red House rang out from soldiers outside.
He said he joined Government ministers, Winston Dookeran and John Humphrey, and Abdullah and another Muslimeen insurgent to start negotiations. Negotiation and discussion were strange words to describe what happened, he told the commission. Toney said the Government ministers negotiated with the Muslimeen while they were bound and had guns to their heads and shots were firing all around.
"At the end of the day what the man with the gun wanted, he got," he said. Toney said his job was to simply write down what was agreed to and crawl around getting signatures from fellow Government MPs.
He said he asked the rebels to untie his hands so he could write and got the signatures from MPs who were bloody and in pain. One of the terms of agreement was the Muslimeen's demand for an amnesty.
"All my legal instincts told me these things would have been thrown in the wastepaper basket," Toney told the commission. "The court would not uphold it." Toney will give evidence again next Thursday.