On Sunday, at the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) Sports and Family Day in Toco, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley appeared to link Friday’s bomb threats, which disrupted the nation’s school system, with a motion of no-confidence in the Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, brought by the Opposition United National Congress (UNC).
“You think that it is accidental that, on the very day that they are having a vote of no confidence in the Minister of National Security, who they had been pillorying non-stop, that on that day you wake up in the morning and virtually every school in the country has a bomb threat?
“You think that’s a joke? You think that’s by accident?...Of all the days in the year, the one day that happens is the day when they are coming to Parliament to move a vote of no confidence in the National Security Minister.”
If terrorism is the use of intentional violence and fear to achieve political or ideological aims, there is no doubt that emailing bomb threats to dozens of schools in both Tobago and Trinidad constitute acts of terror.
As Dr Rowley himself asked on Sunday: “You know that if you shut down every school in this country by calling in a bomb threat, the chaos and trauma you will cause to those children and the fear in their parents?”
So if the bomb threats were acts of terror, and the Prime Minister is linking the Opposition to the bomb threats, it follows that he is raising the possibility that the UNC is a terrorist organisation, or that it harbours terrorists within its ranks.
This is, of course, an extremely serious and damaging allegation to make against a party that attracted 47.14 per cent of voters in the 2020 general election and holds 19 of the 41 seats in the House of Representatives.
The question that Dr Rowley must answer is this: Does he have a scintilla of evidence to support his suggestion that the Opposition is somehow linked to the bomb threats?
By virtue of his position as Prime Minister, Dr Rowley is in a position to receive reports and information from T&T’s security agencies and their international counterparts.
If he does have evidence, he would have received it in his capacity as chairman of T&T’s National Security Council, at a time when this country’s cybersecurity agents would have been at the start of their investigation into the bomb threats.
If he does have evidence, therefore, the Prime Minister’s incendiary questions would have tipped off the perpetrators, possibly making it more difficult to uncover them.
If Dr Rowley made his comments without the benefit of any evidence–if the pointed questions were based on a feeling or a suspicion–he has a responsibility to apologise to the nation or now find some other way to reduce the political temperature of the country.
The temperature has been increased recently by the comments of a Hindu pundit on crime and by the general national unease about the perception that murders and home invasions seem to be out of the control of the national security authorities.
Prime Minister Rowley’s comments on Sunday could have increased the political heat in the country beyond boiling point.
A wise leader, who has the interest of the nation at heart, would realise the danger this presents to the country’s future...and would be looking to secure cold water.