|Winston Dookeran Minister of Foreign Affairs|
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran is the man who suggested Dr Hafizool Mohammed to Cabinet as a member of the commission of enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt. However, even as he admitted to recommending the man whose qualifications to sit as a commissioner are now being contested, the Prime Minister yesterday called on Dookeran to explain his nomination of Mohammed.
The question of why Mohammed’s curriculum vitae (CV) was not properly vetted remained unanswered yesterday but Dookeran, in an exclusive interview with T&T Guardian at his ministry’s office at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, said he needed to clear the air on the controversial appointment. Dookeran claimed Mohammed had initially offered his services by e-mail.
“Mr Mohammed made contact with me a few years before the 2010 general election while he (Mohammed) was in Washington DC, and he informed me he had a long career in military in the US as a Trinidad-born citizen. He said he was about to retire shortly and was willing to serve the country,” he said.
Dookeran said he met with Mohammed some time in 2010 and he confirmed he had a career in the US military and had reached a senior position. “I had no reason to believe it was not true,” said Dookeran. “I said fine. When the matter of the commission into the coup came up, I suggested that we needed somebody with a security background.
“I was asked by the AG to submit any name, so I submitted his (Mohammed’s name).” Stressing that he only submitted Mohammed’s name for consideration, Dookeran pointed out that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was responsible for Mohammed’s eventual selection to the commission.
“I did so on the grounds that he said he had a strong military background,” Dookeran said. “I did not make the decision,” he added. “A commission of enquiry falls under the AG. I am saying I only submitted his name and I forwarded his CV for consideration and it was agreed to. To me, it seemed plausible that a Trinidadian-born who is about to retire was willing to serve. He did not say where but indicated he was willing to serve.”
Admitting he could not recall the references listed on Mohammed’s CV, Dookeran said: “I cannot remember and I cannot find it (CV). It is not too important right now. My concern was his academic qualifications.” Ramlogan later took the recommendation to Cabinet for Mohammed to be appointed a commisioner. The recommendation was accepted some time in 2010.
Yesterday, Dookeran admitted Mohammed did not tell him his Doctorate of Science (DSc) in international relations came from Atlantic University, which is described by various Web sites as a diploma mill. “No, he did not say so at the time,” Dookeran said. He admitted he called Mohammed yesterday after reading an exclusive T&T Guardian article which raised issues about the latter’s qualifications.
Asked if he ever attempted to verify the information on Mohammed's CV before the T&T Guardian broke the story, he said: “What he told me then is what he told me today (yesterday). “When I spoke to him he said his last position was deputy chief of staff in Fort Meade, Maryland. He also said he worked as a consultant at the Pentagon. He confirmed that all military credentials were true.
“The Prime Minister asked if I can verify what Mohammed claimed, given that I submitted his name for consideration. He (Mohammed) told me the same thing again.” Dookeran admitted, however, that he forgot to ask yesterday how come the American Military University had no records of Mohammed in its database.
Mohammed asked for time off from the commission yesterday to deal with the issues arising out of the report, which highlighted his unaccredited DSc degree and the fact that he listed a dead president, Sir Ellis Clarke, and a non-existent president of Turkey, as well as several government ministers on his CV.
Chairman of the commission Sir David Simmons and vice chairman Barbadian attorney Richard Cheltenham also were listed as referees. Mohammed has since retained attorney Martin Anthony George to represent him. Defending his own position, Ramlogan, who is the legal adviser to Cabinet, said Mohammed was appointed because of his claim to have a military training and background.
“Because he was an officer who served in the US Army he was in fact recommended and nominated as a suitable candidate by Minister Dookeran who was the then leader of the Congress of the People.” Ramlogan said he was never made aware of any issues concerning Mohammed's military background.
“It was a critical area that motivated the consideration and no issues were made,” he said. Asked why discrepancies were not picked up when Mohammed's CV was vetted, Ramlogan replied: “Mr Mohammed provided ample and suited evidence by way of certificates from the university that he attended.
“Upon request he provide copies of the certificates that were mentioned on the CV that was supplied to us. Our primary focus was on his military experience and background so the quality of his academic qualifications were not as relevant.” Ramlogan said the chairman of the commission, which continues today with Mohammed, would no doubt discuss the matter and the necessary enquiries would be made to verify the accuracy of what was published.
He added: “When that exercise is completed, if it is that his military experience and training is not confirmed then that will present an issue that has to be addressed. “I am more concerned about the academic issues because his role and purpose was to provide the commission with the views of someone with expertise military background.”
Reproduced from Guardiannews