Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard is not prepared to let the police investigations into the controversial affidavit of Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr die a slow death. With the issue back in the public domain last week, after being dormant for months, Gaspard wants an expeditious investigation "of this matter of grave public importance." Gaspard sent a memorandum, dated March 19, to acting Commissioner of Police James Philbert. This followed Philbert's letter dated October 13, 2009, to Gaspard (who was acting DPP at the time) and the recent discussions between the two men. Gaspard's letter read: "Having regard to the directives that I would have orally given to you and your team of investigators, in the wake of your aforementioned memorandum, I respectfully request that you furnish me with a status report in this matter. "Further, I would be deeply grateful if you were to provide me with such a report by the 26th instant (this Friday)."
The DPP assured Philbert that he was available to provide any assistance or advice in the matter. Sources said since assuming the post of DPP earlier this month, Gaspard held discussions with Philbert and the head of the Anti-Corruption Investigative Bureau, Senior Supt Terry Young, to discuss several issues, including the Bakr affidavit and the Calder Hart matter–re: alleged links with family members and contracts given to CH Development. The T&T Guardian understands that Gaspard had not been too pleased with the way the police have been dragging their feet on the investigations into the affidavit. After the meeting between Gaspard and the police, investigators have picked up speed, going to several people, including Prime Minister Patrick Manning, taking statements to determine whether any offences were committed.
On September 11, 2009, Justice Rajendra Narine directed that Bakr's affidavit detailing an alleged agreement with Manning be sent to the acting Commissioner of Police and the acting Director of Public Prosecutions for their consideration. Narine said the matter caused him some measure of concern. He made reference to parts of the affidavit, although he emphasised that he held no view, or made any finding with respect to the truth of the allegations contained in the document. Narine delivered a 27-page judgment in which he ordered that 11 properties belonging to Bakr and senior Jamaat member Kala Akii Bua be put up for public auction to satisfy a $32 million debt owing to the State for the destruction of Police Headquarters during the 1990 attempted coup. During the hearing of the summons for sale application, Narine admitted the affidavit into evidence. On an application of the AG, the Court of Appeal struck out the document and Bakr went to the Privy Council.
The British Law Lords, on May 5, 2009, ruled that the affidavit should be struck out for irrelevance, but in the course of his judgment, Lord Carswell, who delivered the opinion of the Privy Council, referred extensively to its contents. Carswell stated that the essence of the agreement between the Prime Minister and Abu Bakr "was that certain advantages would be given to the Jamaat out of State property, in return for securing voting support for the Prime Minister's political party. "In the opinion of the Board, this was corrupt within the meaning and intendment of Section 3 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and each party to the agreement was acting in contravention of the section," Carswell said. In reference to the Privy Council's judgment, Narine said: "These are the pronouncements of the highest court in this jurisdiction...Yet, as far as the court is aware, no action has been taken by the appropriate authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations.
"The allegations made by the second defendant (Bakr) are extremely serious...If they are true, they strike at the heart of our democratic system of government," he said. "If the allegations are true, the Prime Minister made promises of state resources to the leader of an organisation which had made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the duly elected government of the country, in return for the Jamaat's leverage in the marginal constituencies (during the 2002 general election)." According to Narine, Bakr's affidavit stated that the Jamaat leader spoke and met with Manning, Larry Achong, Joan Yuille-Williams and Martin Joseph, before the 2002 general election.
?What the affidavit states
?According to Bakr, it was agreed that:
1. The remaining lands at Mucurapo would be transferred to the Jamaat.
2. The Mucurapo Islamic College would be included in the concordat and would receive funding from the Ministry of Education.
3. The State would not enforce the payment of damages against the Jamaat.
In consideration of these promises, Bakr said the Jamaat agreed to, among other things:
1. Work within the crime-ridden areas to bring about a reduction in crime.
2. Work within the marginal constituencies to mobilise young people to vote.
3. The Jamaat would publicly come out in support of the ruling party and would endorse the PNM for re-election.
Bakr said that after the election, Manning failed to honour any of the obligations under the agreement, especially the agreement not to enforce the judgment against the Jamaat.
?The background to the case was the armed occupation by members of the Jamaat in 1990 of the Red House and TTT. The complex subsequent history led to two successful appeals to the Privy Council in relation to criminal prosecutions. The Jamaat sued the Police Commissioner in two actions and obtained an award for damages in each, the amounts being some $2 million and $700,000 or thereabouts, respectively. Then in 1994, the Government commenced proceedings against the insurgents and Bakr, claiming damages for trespass and damage to, and/or destruction of property of the State at the time of the insurrection.
On September 6, 1996, the Government obtained judgment in default of defence for damages to be assessed. On January 15, 2001, damages were assessed by Justice Joseph Tam in the sum of $15 million, with interest. The debt stands at $32 million. On February 6, 2006, the Attorney General issued a summons on behalf of the Government, pursuant to the Remedies Against Creditors Act, for the sale of 11 parcels of land. On June 8, 2006, Bakr filed an affidavit in opposition to the summons, raising a major issue by way of defence to the claim.