PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – One of the five members of a Commission of Inquiry probing the activities that led to the 1990 attempted overthrow of the Trinidad and Tobago government by members of the radical Muslim group, the Jamaat Al-Muslimeen, has asked to be excused after one newspaper queried his qualifications.
The Trinidad Guardian newspaper said that Dr Hafizool Ali Mohammed had “obtained his doctorate of science (DSc) in international relations from Atlantic International University (AIU), which is described by various Web sites as a diploma mill.
In addition, the newspaper reported Wednesday that it had unearthed “more discrepancies in his curriculum vitae (CV).
“Mohammed claims to have a degree from a prestigious military university in the US, which has never heard of him, the newspaper reported, adding “among the referees he lists on his CV are a dead president of T&T and a non-existent president of Turkey”.
When the Commission resumed its sitting here on Wednesday, prominent Barbadian jurist, Sir David Simmons, who is chairing the proceedings, said that Mohammed had asked to be excused.
“Commissioner Hafizool Ali Mohammed is not sitting with us today. He has asked to be excused in order to consult legal advice and to take such other actions as he may be advised in respect of certain allegations...of a very serious nature which have appeared in the Trinidad Guardian since Sunday”.
The newspaper also alleged that Mohammed came to the Commission highly recommended by a Cabinet minister.
Sir David described the allegations as very serious, adding that it is only fair to allow Mohammed time to seek legal advice.
“The time will come when Mr. Mohammed has to give his side of the story and respond to the allegations which have been made against him.
“I think it is but fair he be given the opportunity to prepare such response with legal counsel. So that certainly for today and possibly tomorrow Mr. Mohammed will be excused from sitting on the inquiry,” Sir David added.
The Commission which began sitting two years ago has held 13 sessions to date and is expected to wrap up its session in March. A number of witnesses, including politicians, officers from the protective services, relatives of victims and members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, have already testified.
But Muslim leader Yasin Abu Bakr, who led Bakr, who led more than 100 men in the failed attempt at overthrowing the government on July 27, 1990, has failed to testify despite repeated requests by the Commission.
Bakr , 67, has blamed an ongoing sedition court trial and poor health as reasons for not staying away from the Commission.
At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed during the six-day insurrection and although Bakr and the members of his Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen group were tried for treason, the Court of Appeal upheld an amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.
However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.