“The name Watson Duke has never come up in any conversation between me and the Commissioner of Police or any other police officer.”
This was the response from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday, as he dismissed claims by Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal that a “high political figure” tried to take away the legal firearm belonging to the head of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke.
In a response to Guardian Media questions on the issue raised by Moonilal on Monday, the PM said while he “usually ignores” Moonilal, he would respond as this was a specific allegation about National Security business.
“I have never asked the Police Commissioner or any officer to take away any firearm in the possession of Watson Duke or any other person,” Rowley said.
“A few months ago, in a meeting of elements of National Security, including the National Security Minister and others, chaired by me, and including some members of council, the issue of concerns about the proliferation of firearms licences came up.
“And in reference to the widespread instances of domestic violence and violence against women, it was enquired of the Commissioner whether it was the policy of the police to grant Firearm User’s Licence to a person on a rape charge or convicted felons who are deported into our community.
“This was in the context of the then conversation that it was the constitutional right of any and all citizens to apply for and receive a firearm user’s licence.”
Speaking at the UNC’s Virtual Forum on Monday, Moonilal said he had information that “... a high political official from Tobago” had sought to use their influence by “pressuring and intimidating the Police Service” to seize Duke’s firearm in light of pending charges in the magistrate’s court.
Moonilal said Rowley had tried to “disarm” Duke on the platform with those comments. He queried if efforts had also been on disarming Duke physically.
Moonilal also wanted Rowley to explain whether he had knowledge of any high Government official who sought to influence the process for distribution of firearm licenses - particularly to seek to obtain a license for a specialised weapon for killing pigs. He said the request for a license was turned down. He also queried if someone in Tobago had wanted a license to sell guns and this was rejected. Moonilal asked if Government wanted ex-Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith gone because he “refused to break the law.”