Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I don’t think that the importance of former NAR Minister Gloria Henry’s testimony to the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup (COE) yesterday has sunk in to the national consciousness as yet. Basically, the former Minister is reported as saying that on the afternoon of the 1990 coup she saw then Leader of the Opposition Patrick Manning talking with some Muslimeen men. According to the ex-minister, shortly after this conversation Mr. Manning went to his seat in the Parliament, collected his brief case and left. About an hour later the Muslimeen (including the men that she saw talking to Mr. Manning) stormed the Red House … and the rest is history.

Now, the leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, Yasin Abu Bakr, has for a long time claimed that Mr. Manning knew about the coup in advance. Mr. Manning has always denied this. The Director of Public Prosecutions has deemed Abu Bakr to be an unreliable witness and as his (Abu Bakr’s) evidence has to date been the only thing in existence, quite clearly there has been (up to now) no justiciable evidence against Mr. Manning.

But Ms. Henry’s evidence to the COE may very well be the first of several pieces of evidence to link Mr. Manning to that dastardly attempt almost 21 years ago. Let’s face it: the inference of what Ms. Henry said tends to support the allegation that Mr. Manning knew in advance (even if it was only an hour or so before) of the coup attempt and that he deliberately left the Red House so as not to be caught up in it. While that is the clear inference of her evidence, any reasonable person will accept immediately that that is not necessarily so, and that to convict Mr. Manning on that alone (assuming always that what Ms. Henry said about seeing him talking to members of the Muslimeen is true) would be impossible. Any good lawyer could have a case built on that evidence alone to be thrown out so quickly that you wouldn’t even have time to say “Patrick Manning”!

On the other hand, and again assuming that Ms. Henry’s evidence is true, what if those men who she saw talking to Mr. Manning turn up after all these years and say ‘yes, we warned him to get out of the Red House and told him of the coup’? Add their testimony to that of Ms. Henry and that of Abu Bakr and all of a sudden Mr. Manning would have a very serious case to answer. For make no mistake about it; if he knew (and it has to be a big “if”) then he is guilty of an act of treason, or at the very least being an accessory to an act of treason. This is serious. Mr. Manning was at the time the Leader of the Opposition. He later went on to become Prime Minister. It would be a tragedy indeed if it came out that such a high elected official who is the longest serving Parliamentarian in this country’s history were to be found to be guilty of such a crime. On the other hand IF he is guilty then it would be an even greater tragedy if he was allowed to get away with it … even after so many years have intervened.

For me, at least, this latest development has been most unexpected. I honestly never thought that Mr. Manning would have behaved as it is being alleged that he did and I never really accepted Abu Bakr’s allegations in this regard. Now, I am not so certain. I do not know what to believe. For the sake of the country, I sincerely hope that the COE clears this up definitively one way or the other. It would not be fair to Mr. Manning to leave this obvious cloud over his head. On the other hand, it would be terrible if he was really guilty and was able to get away scot free