Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 6th 2017 Contents A4 news
guardian.co.tt Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Maharaj waits for apology from CDF boss as
Army cat fight rages
Former Chief of Defence
Staff Kenrick Maharaj says
he has received no response
from incumbent CDF, Briga-
dier General Rodney Smart,
on his calls for a retraction to
the claim he (Maharaj) acted
on "his own volition" in au-
thorising the visit of Attorney
General Faris Al-Rawi and his
family to Camp Cumuto in
March last year.
Smart's response was con-
tained in a letter to Opposition
senator Wayne Sturge.
Smart is currently on pre-re-
tirement leave and is due to return
in early August for his retirement
ceremony. The T&T Guardian
was unable to contact Smart or
the Acting CDF Captain Hayden
But Maharaj reiterated yes-
terday that he had nothing to do
with the visit. He said "correct
protocol required that if he was
inviting the AG to the Camp I
would have written a letter of
invitation and the AG would have
responded with an acknowledge-
ment that the date suggested was
okay. Protocol required that on
the day of the visit I would have
presented myself to receive the
AG and his family.
But I had no idea that they were
coming. I was not informed and
I was nowhere around."
He said it appeared to him that
what transpired on March 27,
2016 "appeared to be something
informal, and I am not sure what
the protocol arrangements were."
Maharaj said he was saddened
this has turned into "a war of
words" between himself as for-
mer CDF and Smart. He said from
a military standpoint "there is
nothing wrong with training for a
VIP from a military or procedural
standpoint, but in this case there
were compromises, children with
weapons, that is just not done."
He said his pain is that "up to
this time, no one has addressed
the critical issue. I do not share
the view about placing children in
the same manner we place adults.
Children are children and those
responsible for the protection of
children are the protective forces,
it is okay to familiarise an adult,
but children are not mentally
prepared for those issues. I don't
agree with that."
Maharaj reiterated that he is
"deeply concerned that the dis-
turbingly misleading statements
made in the TTDF response carry
the potential to do serious harm"
to his "character and reputation."
He said the letter also did not
address the issue of whether
there was a breach of the Military
(Prohibitions) Act 14 of 1996 by
allowing minors to handle TTDF
Maharaj said acting CDF
Pritchard would have received
his letter sent last week in which
he asked for, among other things:
a retraction of the statement
issued by Smart in which his
name is mentioned, "an official
public statement be made by the
Defence Force to undo the hurt
caused to Maj Gen Kenrick Ma-
haraj and members of his family,"
and that consideration be given
to a comprehensive review of
the board of inquiry conducted
in the matter with specific focus
on the terms of reference required
to guide its deliberations, includ-
ing the central issue of who was
responsible for the handing over
of the military weapons to unau-
thorised children during a range
Also contacted on the issue
yesterday, columnist Raffique
Shah, a former lieutenant in the
army, said the confusion may
have been created by Smart's
wording in his letter to Sturge. He
said the Board of Inquiry Report
"may not have pointed a finger,
we don't know.
It could have said these were
standing operating procedures as
approved by the CDF who at the
time was Maharaj.
I think they owe Maharaj an
apology at the very least to clear
his name, as being the person
who by inference in the letter is
deemed to have been responsi-
Shah said "Maharaj was right
to come out and defend himself."
He said while as the CDF at the
time Maharaj may not have ac-
tually been aware the AG and his
family were invited to the camp.
He is of the view that "the officer
who is culpable is the officer who
was in charge of the range that
day, the senior person." But he
said the BOI Report should have
"apportioned blame where it be-
longed and recommended what
should be done."
In his letter to Sturge, Smart
stated that "the BOI deduced
that the Attorney General's
children were not allowed to
have high-powered weapons
belonging to the Defence Force
in the presence of the Attorney
General and members of the
AG: It's a
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has de-
scribed as "questionable"the explanation over
how his family came to be at Camp Cumuto
offered by former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
Al-Rawi maintains he went to Camp Cumuto
as a guest of the T&T Defence Force to deal with
security matters for himself and his family. At that
time, Maharaj was the CDS.
Maharaj has vociferously denied authorising the
range practice conducted at Cumuto on October 31,
2015, which was attended by Al-Rawi and members
of his family.
"I did not invite the Attorney General to any
military base to attend any range firing activity
on October 31, 2015, or at any other time during
my tour of duty as Chief of Defence Staff," Maharaj
said of the incident.
Yesterday, however, Al-Raw countered that
claim, saying: "I maintain, as I have from day one,
that I was invited by the TTDF. One does not simply
roll up to the TTDF just so and find yourself there.
There is a protocol in observance.
"The story being offered by the UNC and Mr
Maharaj stands at variance with standard practice
and the extent of history at the TTDF, so I maintain
it is a matter for the TTDF and I continue to hold
the very position that I have always held."
Maharaj has denied having anything to do with
the visit despite a letter from current CDS, Briga-
dier General Rodney Smart, which states Maharaj,
"acting on his own volition", authorised the visit
and allowed Al-Rawi's children to use the Camp
Cumuto shooting range.
Photographs of Al-Rawi's children holding
what appeared to be high-powered weapons were
brought to the national spotlight by Opposition
Member of Parliament Dr Roodal Moonilal during
the budget debate last October.
Al-Rawi also continued to hold fast to his claim
that he had nothing to answer for either.
"I maintain the issue surrounding the security
of my family is not an issue that is negotiable in
my mind. I have stated from the get go that I was a
guest at the invitation of the Defence Force for the
purposes of their organisation of security mech-
anisms surrounding my family and me," he said.
"I note that the TTDF, in their response to Mr
Maharaj, has said that administrative instructions
were issued in writing and these instructions came
to the attention of the CDS ... this appears to be a
matter that is squarely in the Defence Force."
The AG also said he was not interviewed by the
TTDF or by any other entity about the issue dur-
ing its inquiry into the matter and found it "very
interesting" that the Opposition received a copy
of the TTDF letter while he only became aware of
when he saw it in the press.
"They sat down on that letter for six weeks. I have
nothing other than the firm view that the UNC is
finding it difficult to imbibe the truth and clearly
the response the army has given to them and to their
Senator Sturge doesn't meet or fit within the nar-
rative they have been trying to build," Al-Rawi said.
He said he is confident he has no issues to deal
with, as he could think of "no better exoneration"
than that of the TTDF.
"I believe it is an attempt to reset the media and
nothing more than that," he said.
On the matter of who gave the authority for the
children in the photographs to hold the firearms,
Al-Rawi said he did not accept anything said by
"The population asked for the production of the
army's position and it seemed that the UNC got it.
How is this only now a story? There's got to be more
in the coincidence of the UNC's frontline members
being in trouble and the resurgence of this story,
which is just a dead story," Al-Rawi said.
Force's name being dragged down, Griffith
The T&T Defence Force
shouldn't have engaged
in name calling or fin-
ger-pointing in the con-
troversy of the Attorney
General's children holding
says former national secu-
rity Minister Gary Griffith.
Griffith weighed in on the
matter yesterday following
drawn verbal swords between
current Chief of Defence Staff
Rodney Smart and the man he
succeeded, Kenrick Maharaj.
This concerned a TTDF report
from Smart which claimed Ma-
haraj, "acting of his own voli-
, authorised Al-Rawi's chil-
dren to use the shooting range
at Camp Cumuto last October,
where they were eventually
photographed holding what
appeared to be high-powered
weapons. Pictures of this were
shown in Parliament last Octo-
ber by the Opposition.
Smart reportedly detailed
the situation in April in reply
to questions from UNC Senator
Maharaj has since denied the
TTDF's claim but the the latter
has stuck to its story, saying the
case is now closed.
Smart, now on leave, was
unavailable for comment yes-
Maharaj told the T&T Guard-
ian despite TTDF's position,
"... the matter's not resolved."
Maharaj said he now intends
pursuing all avenues to clear
his name, since the situation
is perceived to have stained his
On the army's claims that ad-
ministrative instructions - is-
sued for security details for the
AG - are provided to the CDF, a
source said yesterday that not
all administrative instructions
are seen by a CDF since such
instructions aren't part of a
CDF's instruments. They not-
ed, however, that a CDF sees all
Griffith said he found it
amazing the TTDF could say
the matter was closed, since
Maharaj had now accused his
predecessor of lying.
"It's very unfortunate and
disappointing two CDFs can
have an open fight over a mat-
ter that should have been dealt
with better. TTDF, which has
been embarrassed by this, is
the only loser," he said.
"Nothing illegal was done by
allowing the children to become
familiarised with the weapons
if TTDF recommended or felt
it necessary for them to have
knowledge of weapons in case
they were ambushed. TTDF and
police service have caravans all
over T&T showing weapons."
Griffith added, "All the TTDF
needed to say is there was basic
procedure of a mission to se-
cure officials and their family
and implied in that mission, is
the task of familiarisation with
weapons, if recommended by
those securing them. It wasn't
necessary to call names or point
fingers since no law was broken."
He said his family received
briefings and training when he
was minister and death threats
were issued against them af-
ter he exposed Life Sport pro-
Griffith said he knew there are
soldiers who secure the AG and
if under Maharaj's mandate the
TTDF was to secure the AG and
his family, the responses to se-
cure them would have included
an implied task of demonstrat-
ing how to protect themselves
in event of an ambush. He said
Maharaj's input should also have
been obtained for the TTDF's
probe of the matter.
He also said, "There's a duty
officer on 24 hours and if the AG
entered the camp, the informa-
tion is immediately made known
to the Commanding Officer who
tells the CDF.
"If what Maharaj said is true -
that he didn't know of it - there
was a major breakdown of com-
munication in not relaying the
information to him . Someone
in TTDF dropped the ball. If the
CO wasn't there the information
would be passed to the subor-
Griffith said, however, a
breach was committed in the
taking of pictures of the children
holding the weapons.
Former national security
minister Gary Griffith.
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