Trinidadian PM Rowley says state security apparatus was plotting a coup

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Keith Rowley.
Government Information Services Limited

Very few had seen this coming. Looking fit and dapper in a blue suit with red striped tie, Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith Rowley dropped a political bombshell on his twin island republic with Tobago this week by revealing plans by the state’s Strategic Services Agency (SSA) to form a coup and possibly replace his administration.

The highly controversial spy and intelligence gathering agency had been in the national spotlight for much of the past year following a series of scandals involving corruption, nepotism and even the existence of “a cult” in the organization that was apparently dedicated to changing the governing People’s National Movement (PNM) by force. At the time of his revelations, Rowley was laying the results of a probe in parliament following a protracted audit of agency operations.

“Shockingly, the audit discovered that the former SSA director initiated the procurement of high-grade military bolt-action rifles, complete with the most modern silencers and other accessories. The SSA was engaged in training specially selected questionably hired personnel in the skill of the use of such weapons.’ He also said that the agency had established a highly militarized and trained tactical response unit but authorities are unsure of what exactly it did. “Why would an intelligence-gathering organization, with a mandate to collect and share information with operational units in other law enforcement and defense agencies, find it necessary to secretly have an operational unit of that nature and magnitude?”

Detailing the results of the audit, the prime minister said that no one can account for the whereabouts of at least 70,000 rounds of ammunition that had been under the control of the agency. Authorities are also baffled as to why ammunition purchases had moved from 8,000 rounds in 2017 to 100,000 by 2022. Its stock of weapons moved, as well, from 24 handguns in 2016 to 103 by 2022.

He told fellow lawmakers that the cabinet had never approved any funding for high powered weapons with the latest silencers. “This didn’t prevent the SSA from making part payment for military-grade weapons with suppression capabilities.”

The oil and gas-rich CARICOM nation has a well-defined history linked to an attempted coup by a Muslim group in July of 1990 and a Black Power uprising involving soldiers and civilians in 1970 so authorities are taking the latest evidence seriously. Then Prime Minister Ray Robinson was shot by coup makers when they had invaded parliament during a live session. Other state entities were attacked including the state television station, police facilities and other buildings. A large part of commercial Port of Spain was also destroyed by fire and affected by looting.