Michael Mark Archbald v Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeMr. Rajmanlal Joseph,Ms. Leela Ramdeen,Mr. Harridath Maharaj
Judgment Date13 September 2017
Docket NumberE.O.T. No. 0001 of 2016
CourtEqual Opportunity Tribunal (Trinidad and Tobago)
Michael Mark Archbald
Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force

His Honour Mr. Rajmanlal Joseph — Judge/Chairman

Her Honour Ms. Leela Ramdeen—Lay Assessor

His Honour Mr. Harridath Maharaj — Lay Assessor

E.O.T. No. 0001 of 2016


(Referred pursuant to S. 39(2) of the Equal Opportunity Act 2000 as amended by Act No. 5 of 2001)


Mr Gayle instructed by Ms. Osborne appeared on behalf of the Complainant

Mr. Ramnanan instructed by Ms. Mahepat appeared on behalf of the Respondent


This case is concerned with allegations of the Complainant that he was discriminated against by the Respondent on the basis of his race and religion. And requested that the Tribunal make the appropriate declaration; in addition to make an award of damages including aggravated damages and/or exemplary damages and/or vindicatory damages and/or damages for indignity and/or injury to feelings, and/or damages for loss of employment and/or income and/or benefits.


The Respondent on the other hand, by its defence filed on June 17, 2016 denied that the Complainant was discriminated against by the Respondent on the basis of his race or religion or at all. And further that the Complainant was discharged from the service of the Respondent based “on a risk assessment by the intelligence and investigators of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment G2 Department”.


In support of their respective positions articulated hereinabove the parties filed the following witness statements:

  • (a) Witness Statement of the Complainant filed on September 6, 2016

  • (b) Witness Statement of Corporal Roger Leera filed on July 8, 2016

  • (c) Witness Statement of Colonel Peter Sealey filed on July 8, 2016

  • (d) Witness Statement of Retired Warrant Officer, Class 1, Ian Gardner, filed on July 8, 2016

  • (e) Witness Statement of Major Jermain Roachford filed on July 8, 2016 (I) Witness Statement of Corporal Kevin Ramdoo filed on July 8, 2016 (g) Witness Statement of Corporal Kerwin Peters filed on July 8, 2016


Essentially it is the evidence of the Complainant that he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago by birth which qualifies him, inter alia, to apply to become a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.


The Complainant asserted that in 1998 he converted to the Muslim faith from that of being a Seventh Day Adventist. Thereafter he began attending the Al Falah Mosque located at Railway Road, Arima; and began interacting with other members of the Jamaat (members of the congregation) of the said mosque.


He further indicated that at the time of his conversion he was residing with the Strakers at their home at Phase Three La Horquetta. The Strakers who were Seventh Day Adventist were shocked by his conversion to Islam; and told him to recant or be put out of their home. He did not recant. He was put out, and had no particular place to stay and sometimes slept at the Mosque, with friends and other Muslim brothers. At this time he was a form one student at the Malabar Composite Secondary School and “under negative peer pressure he had a rudimentary involvement in anti-social activities of selling marijuana and cocaine”.


The Complainant further stated that when he was about 17 years old he was taken in by Ms. Mira Lawrence who lived in Sherwood Park, Arima. Ms. Lawrence was the grandmother of Filton Abdullah (deceased); and as a consequence of living there he interacted with Mr. Abdullah and went to mosque with him; but did not involve himself in his alleged “criminal activities”.


He maintained that he always wanted to be a soldier, and he also did two months training at the Civilian Conservation Corps. And in 2008 he “successfully sat the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment examinations and did the physical test”. And subsequently received a letter from the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment dated May 26, 2011 in which he was informed that he met the enlistment requirements of the Regiment and should report to the Chaguaramas Main Gate on June 1, 2011. Along with this letter was a list of items that he should procure; but did not have the finances to obtain the said items, but was able to borrow the sum of $4,000.00 from Mr. Nazim Ali, the Imam of the Al Falah Mosque.


The Complainant indicated that he reported to the Chaguaramas base on June 1, 2011 there were other young people there and they were taken to the Mess Hall, where he was given a document to sign (Attestation Paper) to become a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment for six (6) years; and was assigned to Platoon 2 Section 5 dorm, and thereafter his training began.


During the second week of his training the Complainant stated that he was approached by Corporal Leera (who at that time was assigned to one of the other platoons). He knew Corporal Leera as he lived in the area of Sherwood Park, Arima. When he was about 17 years of age he went to him to get information about getting into the army, and he said to him “check the papers”. When Corporal Leera approached him he said “Muslim, wah you doing here” How you get in inside ah here!”. He replied “I did the exam and was successful”.


Later that day he was told to “stand down until further notice” and was not allowed to do any regular duties. He was subsequently taken to the then Officer in charge and was directed to speak to two officers, Corporal Ramdoo an Intelligence Officer and Corporal Lance Peters a Regimental Police. And was asked certain questions as follows:

They then gave him a white legal pad and directed him to go into a room and write down his life. Further, he requested a lawyer and was told ‘ No, we own you and anything we tell you to do, you will do”.

  • (i) “Recruit Mark Archbald, are you still a Muslim?” He responded “Yes Sir, but am not practicing it at present”.

  • (ii) “Where did you learn about weapons?” He responded “Well here, other than dat, I went hunting with my girlfriend father and ah use a pellet gun hut everything I learn here”

  • (iii) “Have you ever sell drugs?”. He responded “ Yes Sir, but when ah was about thirteen (13) but I didn't like how it had people and them looking so ah stop”.


The Complainant further indicated that he wrote his “Life Story” and thereafter was prevented from engaging in any form of training activities, and did domestic chores. By this time the speculation in camp was that he was a “bad boy” or “a terrorist”. This went on for about three (3) weeks and he felt “emotionally distraught”.


Further, on July 4, 2011 he was called before the officer in charge (OC) again and a letter of discharge was read to him in the presence of a Special Forces guy. The information read to him was as follows:

“I was a member of the Jamatt Al Muslimeen

The Imam who gave me money was from the Jamaat Al Muslimeen

The mosque I attended was the Jamaat Al Muslimeen mosque

I sold drugs between the ages of 17–18

I am a threat to national security and to the Defence Force

You are hereby discharged this day”

The Complainant maintained that while the OC was reading this he spoke out saying “Sir, what you reading is not correct, all yuh making a mistake here”. But was told to “shuddup” by the Special Forces Officer. He was traumatized.


Moreover, on July 6, 2011 he was called before the then Commanding Officer of Tetron Barracks Lieutenant Colonel Sealey who read out the same discharge to him, but told him that he was sorry it reached to this level and there was nothing he could do to help him because the order had already passed from higher order. The Complainant further averred that he asked Colonel Sealey whether he would get a discharge paper and he told him “Yes”. But was subsequently unable to get same.


The Complainant asserted that he was stripped of all Military attire and escorted to the main gate. He then went to the Regimental Headquarters at Port of Spain to see the officer in charge of recruitment but was unable to do so. He began drinking alcohol heavily.


In order to get some form of redress the Complainant maintained that he had his Attorney-at-Law write the Regiment but he did not get a response. He also went to the Ombudsman but they did not have the authority to assist him. He stated that he tried without success to get other officers to assist him about what happened but they were all afraid that they would loose their jobs or be victimised. He strongly maintained that he is not now or ever been a member of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen.


This witness was extensively cross-examined by counsel for the Respondent and outside of being unclear about certain dates, for example, this witness was unsure about his age when he began staying at the home of Ms. Lawrence. On the whole however, the Tribunal found this witness to be forthright and credible.


The evidence of Corporal Roger Leera was that he was a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force since November 1996; and in 2011 he had known the Complainant for approximately 2–3 years by seeing him in the Sherwood Park area where he lived. And that during the latter half of 2010 he noticed the Complainant in the area and he started making inquiries, and was informed that he was an affiliate of and staying with a man known as “Abdullah” (deceased). Abdullah was known to carry an illegal firearm and was often described as a “Shooter”.


This witness went on to indicate that on or around 2010–2011 before the Complainant joined the TTDF as a recruit he visited his home enquiring about how he may join the TTDF. He told him he should check the newspapers and ended the conversation.


Corporal Leera maintained that he did not see the Complainant again until he started recruit training, and on that occasion he questioned him about selling drugs. The Complainant initially denied selling drugs, and when asked again he admitted that he only sold cocaine on an...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT