We Mix Business with Pleasure.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday March 20, 2013 – National  Security Minister Austin “Jack” Warner maintained yesterday that he had no  knowledge of an illegal flying squad operating in Trinidad and Tobago and, like  the rest of the population, he was “anxiously awaiting” the outcome of an  investigation ordered by Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar into the  matter.

Warner, who has consistently denied knowledge of the squad headed by a  retired senior police officer, Mervyn Cordner, told the Senate he was unaware  Cordner had stated publicly that he and other persons with the full knowledge  and approval of the Ministry of National Security established the flying squad  unit “and set about some covert operations in crime fighting for and on behalf  of the ministry and the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Mr President I am aware that Dr Mervyn Cordner has been saying several  things publicly with each utterance different from the one he said previously.  However, I am not aware of what has been referred to in this question,” he told  the Senate as opposition legislators grilled him on the issue.

Warner said he has had no personal conversation or agreement with Cordner  regarding the illegal flying squad, insisting “I never had any conversation nor  agreement” with the retired top cop “in respect of any covert unit or  activity”.

Cordner, speaking on a radio programme here over the weekend, insisted that  he held at least five meetings with Warner, in the presence of now dismissed  junior national security minister Colin Partap and other officials of the  Ministry of National Security.

Cordner told radio listeners that Warner had even requested that his group of  retired police officers present a budget for the operation of the unit, which  they did and submitted.

But the National Security Minister said he had not instructed anyone in his  ministry to hold discussions or agreement with Cordner, saying “I do not recall  ever instructing any official in the Ministry of National Security to have any  discussion and agreement with former inspector Mervyn Cordner”.

Warner said his ministry had also never approved or provide any “resources of  any kind” in the establishment of the unit.

Warner quoting from a local newspaper of June 26, 2012 where he was quoted as  saying he was exploring the possibility of bringing back a sanitised flying  squad to the one that had operated within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service  (TTPS) during the 1980’s, said he made “no promises.

“Mr President I made no promises. I said I would explore it and I did by  discussing it with the Commissioner of Police and based on his advice the idea  was abandoned,” he added.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said she, too, had  no prior knowledge of the existence of an “illegal flying squad” and that a  report submitted by Warner on the issue had been passed on to the police for  investigation.

“I also state unequivocally that as Prime Minister, any initiative considered  by my Cabinet for combating crime will always be fully and completely within the  laws and Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and under the jurisdiction where  appropriate of the Commissioner of Police.”

In a brief statement to Parliament, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar, who has  been under mounting pressure to dismiss Warner over the issue, recalled that she  had asked Warner to produce the report upon her return from attending the  Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Inter-Sessional summit in Haiti last week,  following widespread stories in the media.

“It was incumbent of me to obtain a full report from the Ministry of National  Security on all matters involving that ministry and the alleged reintroduction  of a flying squad”.

She said the National Security Council (NSC) had met and “amongst the several  matters discussed was the issue of the alleged flying squad and the  establishment of same.

“The Council had before it the report I requested from the Minister of  National Security Honourable Jack Warner. He also had a report from Mr. Garvin  Heerah former strategic advisor at the Ministry of National Security…and whom  it was alleged had provided some interface with the persons who were desirous of  reintroducing a flying squad to help in combating crime in Trinidad and  Tobago”.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that Warner has “consistently denied he  was instrumental in establishing any new flying squad”.

“His report to the National Security Council reflected this and so today I  wish to report that after full discussions and careful deliberations, the  National Security Council took the decision to refer the said report to the  Commissioner of Police for an investigation into any alleged wrongdoing,  unlawful conduct and or action by any or all persons purporting to be involved  in this matter,” she said then.

Warner told the Senate he was not aware that an official from the National  Security Operations Sector (NSOC) had stated publicly he assisted in the  acquisition of vehicles for the unit headed by Cordner.

“I don’t know what the official said or did not say. What I do know, however,  the NSOC official had no official authority from the ministry for issuing any  instructions to Cordner or anybody else.

“I want to say again, very slowly, probably I spoke to fast just now, let me  say it very slowly. This minister is not aware of any official instructions  given to any director of NSOC or anybody else with regards to giving  instructions to Mr Cordner on any matter whatsoever,” he said in response to  questions from the Opposition.

Asked if he was able to say on what basis was such assistance provided,  Warner responded “I was not aware of any assistance which was provided.

“I said before I am not aware, I said it here, I am not aware, I will say  outside I am not aware of any assistance provided by any official to Mr  Cordner”.

Warner told legislators that he only became aware of statements made by the  retired senior police officer “when I read them in the newspapers” and that “apart from what I read in the newspapers I am unaware” of any provision of  vehicles to persons claiming to be associated with the flying squad.

“The Ministry of National Security did not procure any services for things  for anybody outside the official remit of the ministry and definitely not for Mr  Cordner,” Warner said, adding, like the rest of the population, “I await the  outcome of this matter which has been sent to the police”.

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