Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1640
TUESDAY 10 NOVEMBER 1998
GRANT and MR
1640. Fully understood. And when you wrote
that can you explain to the Committee what circumstances you envisaged
where there might be a limited necessary use of force and by whom?
(Mr Murray) Yes. We were talking about a situation
where the junta plainly could not be brought to respect any of
the agreements or accords for peaceful restoration and it would
be felt possible for a UN mandate to be given which allowed for
a limited use of force by the ECOMOG forces. I should be quite
plain that at no stage did I ever see any consideration of use
of force by this country or the involvement of UK forces.
1641. So what you are saying to us is that
the official policy was a combination of trying to achieve a resolution
by peaceful means but the official policy also envisaged a potential
possible fall-back position in which there might have to be limited
use of military force?
(Mr Murray) Yes that was something I have said
before on which there would have to be a great deal of new international
consultation and domestic consultation, submissions to Ministers,
1642. Was this two-stranded policy the policy
as seen at official level or was it also explained to Ministers
that behind the publicly stated policy of peaceful resolution
officials had in mind that there could be circumstances in which
there might have to be resort to force?
(Mr Murray) I had not personally had any conversations
along those lines with Ministers.
(Ms Grant) Could I answer that because I was there
a lot longer than Craig. As I say, there was a two-pronged policy
which was being pursued by the United Kingdom and the United Nations
which was support for economic sanctions and diplomatic negotiation.
There had for some months been a third prong to a policy which
was the one adopted by ECOWAS which also included the threat or
the possible use of force so that option was on the table and
I do recall, I think, either having discussed or having put some
earlier papers to Ministers at which we made clear, indeed I think
there were some telegrams making clear that when we agreed the
first Security Council Resolution in October it was premature
and indeed problematic for us to support the third prong, in other
words the possible use of force, and that therefore our policy
would be limited to the first two but the possibility of including
and reconsidering the possible use of force in future in the context
of a further UN Security Council Resolution was certainly shared
with Ministers. They were aware that was ECOWAS's preferred policy.
They had also decided that we would not go that far at this time
and indeed we were investigating the possibilities of going to
that second Resolution and endorsing the use of force or mandating
ECOMOG to use force in New York on the very day that ECOMOG moved
against the junta. It was possible, had we had a few more weeks,
there might have been a second Security Council Resolution which
we would have supported which did indeed mandate or support ECOMOG
in the third prong of its approach which it had adopted in the
1643. You would agree that at no time did
Ministers disclose in their public statements, not least to Parliament
that British policy was anything other than the resolution of
the conflict by peaceful means?
(Ms Grant) Nor was it. At that time that was the
only policy we were considering and implementing. If we had changed
that policy of course Ministers would have explained that I am
1644. In the same minute, Mr Murray, you
recommended that Mr Penfold should be withdrawn from his post,
did you not?
(Mr Murray) Yes I did.
1645. In doing so you did in that minute,
did you not, make a very serious personal allegation against Mr
Penfold. You made an allegation that he was acting contrary to
the British Government's policy and that he was advising President
Kabbah to go for the military option?
(Mr Murray) Yes I did.
1646. Can you tell the Committee what was
the documentary basis you had for making this extremely serious
allegation against the High Commissioner?
(Mr Murray) It did not have a documentary basis.
It was based on what Mr Penfold had told me.
1647. We have your word that was the case.
We unfortunately do not have Mr Penfold's word. Would you like
to then tell us what was the occasion, the date and place of the
meeting, at which you are alleging Mr Penfold told you that he
had advised President Kabbah to take the military option?
(Mr Murray) Yes. I walked into Tim Andrews' room
on 29 January, I believe it was shortly after lunch. Mr Penfold
was talking to Tim Andrews and I think had just handed over the
Project Python document and Mr Penfold was in a gleeful mood,
very up-beat and he was telling Tim Andrews that Sandline were
going to get the Kamajors organised and that this would change
the military situation. I was rather alarmed by this.
1648. Just on that point you are actually
now confirming to us that he told Mr Andrews that Sandline was
going to be providing arms to the Kamajors?
(Mr Murray) No, he said Sandline were going to
get the Kamajors organisedand he said nothing about armsand
this would change the military situation.
1649. Getting them organised by training
would change the military situation against a well-armed junta?
(Mr Murray) Apparently. I am only referring you
to what he said. I then asked him if he would mind coming with
me into my room which was adjoining and I asked him to explain
what this was all about. He told me that he had advised President
Kabbah in Conakry to take on Sandline and that they would be able
to train up the Kamajors as a fighting force and even things up
with the junta. I said, "That's pretty alarming because I
have just told the Department not to have any dealings with Sandline."
I should perhaps state at this point this was the first time I
had ever met Mr Penfold. In the interim he had been on holiday
in Canada and the United States between my decision to tell the
Department that and this meeting so I had no opportunity to convey
the Department's decision to him until then. I said that in view
of our general policy on mercenaries and dealing with such people
I was not sure it was wise to have advised President Kabbah to
employ Sandline. We then had a discussion where he said that it
was the only way to get Kabbah back, essentially to use force.
I said that is not where we are meant to be going. We were meant
to be exploring other peaceful options including things like power
sharing with any legitimate opposition and any other possible
options. He said that I was losing sight of the fact that the
key point was to restore Kabbah and that was the end of our conversation.
I believe I fairly immediately went to see Ann and Richard Dales
who, in my recollection, happened to be together in Richard Dales's
room at the time and I told them what Mr Penfold had told me about
his action in advising President Kabbah to hire Sandline and I
told them that this was of great concern to me and they appeared
to share my concern and Ann then arranged for the meeting of 30
January in order to find out what all this was about. I do not
know if Ann wishes to add anything.
1650. Ms Grant?
(Ms Grant) I very much support everything Craig
Sir John Stanley
1651. You are of course aware that unlike
yourself who did not produce any record of the alleged conversation
and the nature of the conversations to which you have just referred,
Mr Penfold did at Ms Grant's request produce in his minute of
2 February his own account of his discussions with President Kabbah
at the point when President Kabbah on December 19 told him of
the possible contract that he had with Sandline. You are aware
that what you have just told the Committee is directly in contradiction
to the actual minute that Mr Penfold put to Ms Grant. You are
aware that Mr Penfold told Ms Grant this when President Kabbah
asked Mr Penfold whether he should sign the contract or not, I
am doing this from recollection, Mr Penfold's minute to Ms Grant
makes it clear that he replied that it was a decision for President
Kabbah. You are aware also from the minute of 2 February to Ms
Grant that when told by President Kabbah of the impending signing
of this contract, Mr Penfold, as is categorically and clearly
stated in this minute, reminded President Kabbah that the British
Government's policy was the resolution of this conflict by peaceful
means. I have to put it to you, Mr Murray, that on these two fundamental
points we have documentary evidence from Mr Penfold; we have no
such documentary evidence from you.
(Mr Murray) I really find those points rather
difficult to agree with. There is a minute of 2 February written
by Mr Penfold at the direct instruction of Ms Grant who insisted
that he document these matters and the primary thing being documented
was a meeting that had taken place on 19 December. At Ms Grant's
meeting with Mr Penfold on 30 January Ms Grant asked me to be
present. I may be wrong but my understanding was that her motive
in doing that was so that I could substantiate in her presence
what Mr Penfold had told me in terms of his advice to President
Kabbah. At that meeting, Ms Grant told Mr Penfold that he had
given advice to President Kabbah which was contrary to Government
policy and Mr Penfold did not deny this but on the contrary he
replied that he had given such advice in his personal capacity.
I have a very clear recollection of this. You may ask Ms Grant
in a moment but my belief is that she has a similar recollection.
I do not believe this is contradicted by his minute of 2 February.
Ms Grant laid down the law to him in fairly clear terms about
giving advice in his personal capacity and as a result Mr Penfold's
minute of 2 February appears more hedged than what he told me
or told me and Ms Grant directly but in paragraph 4 of his message
of 2 February you can still discern that his advice was to sign
the contract where it says, "I noted that the decision was
for him to make but as a personal view I noted that he had already
had favourable experiences with executive outcomes." There
is more, but the kernel of his advice to President Kabbah seems
to have survived into his minutes of 2 February. Members have
a copy and can read it for themselves.
Sir John Stanley: I
have to put it to you, and obviously the Committee may wish to
ask Mr Penfold to comment on what you have just said, that reference
that you have just made to Mr Penfold speaking in a personal capacity
and President Kabbah's favourable experience with Executive Outcomes
relates simply to the previous arrangements which had existed
between that company and President Kabbah's forces as you well
know. It does not actually bear at all on the specific position
that Mr Penfold took up in relation to the prospective Sandline
Chairman: It would
probably be best to have Ms Grant's comments.
Sir John Stanley: If
Mr Penfold wants to comment
1652. I think Ms Grant should be allowed
to comment on the last statement.
(Ms Grant) I can confirm Mr Murray's account of
the meeting at which we were both present with Mr Penfold. As
you say, Sir John, there was no written account of the previous
conversation between Craig Murray and Peter Penfold but he had
already given me the gist of it along the lines he describes and
it was that that had prompted me to have the kind of meeting I
usually try to avoid with a High Commissioner with whom I have
to have a co-operative relationship and it was for me a rather
formal meeting at which, as I say, I had asked Craig to be present
and where I wanted to hear, firstly, Mr Penfold's side of the
story from his own mouth and to make clear as his reporting officer
and the guardian of the policy, if you like, in London exactly
what I thought and I did that in the course of the meeting. It
was as Craig recalls. There was some heated and quite lengthy
debate about whether or not it was open to Mr Penfold to give
advice to a head of state to whom he was accredited in a personal
capacity. I said that I did not accept that he could do so. I
thought that when he gave advice he should always bear in mind
his official status and that President Kabbah would do the same.
If he was giving advice to President Kabbah President Kabbah would
assume that advice had the backing of the British Government.
1653. Can I ask a quick supplementary. In
terms of the relationship between this professional diplomat and
the President and what has just been said, what do you understand
by the term a "personal opinion"?
(Ms Grant) Well, as I tried to explain, in my
view if you are giving advice on policy of any kind to a head
of state or government or a minister in another government and
the relationship of that person to you is one of High Commissioner
accredited to that country, my own view is that you cannot have
a personal opinion. I remember Mr Penfold arguing back that actually
President Kabbah had listened to him particularly because of his
personal regard for him and his personal relationship which we
understood was very close. I said he could not know that. He could
not know how President Kabbah was responding and he had to assume
and behave as if all his communications, however informal, in
whatever difficult circumstances, were in his capacity as British
1654. So can I infer by that that it would
appear that Mr Penfold had developed, if you like, a relationship
that took him beyond that of the professional representative with
the President? Was he acting as a kind of personal advisor to
the President in terms of Sandline and HMG?
(Ms Grant) I was seeking to ensure by that conversation
and by other conversations we had had of a gentler nature before
that that relationship did not develop in an improper or a damaging
way. I made it very clear what I thought were the proper limits
and conveyed those to Mr Penfold and expected him to observe those
1655. Can we infer from that that the minute
of the High Commissioner of 2 February was a sanitised and rather
self-serving version of what he had told you earlier in your judgment?
(Ms Grant) I would not agree with that categorisation
although I think the most important difference between what he
said in the meeting and what he wrote was a very crucial one which
was the reference to the purchase the arms.
1656. I am sorry, I missed that.
(Ms Grant) The reference to the purchase of arms
was in the minute but not in the conversation so rather than being
a sanitised version, if you like it was an expanded version.
1657. But so far as the personal advice
was concerned that was excluded?
(Ms Grant) Again I do not find that surprising.
I had, as Craig has implied, been fairly tough at length about
the way in which he was carrying out his business. As part of
my interview with him I asked him to write down in his terms in
a secure environment everything that he knew. I did not ask him
to write down the fact that I had mentioned to him or gone through
with him the way in which he conducted his business.
1658. But your motive was that you were
rather alarmed by the implications of what he had been saying
(Ms Grant) By the implications of what he said
at our meeting and by earlier meetings he had had with Mr Andrews
and Mr Murray.
Chairman: May I check
one thing with Sir John. We have another room, room 8 at 2 o'clock.
Sir John, if you are going on for more than ten minutes we will
stop now, otherwise we can continue.
Sir John Stanley: I
have got a couple more questions I would like to put to Mr Murray
and then perhaps I could leave the other questions to Mr Murray
until after lunch.
Chairman: A couple
of questions to Mr Murray and then Sir John will continue after
Sir John Stanley
1659. Mr Murray, I want to return to the
paragraph in Legg 6.53 headed "The intelligence report".
That paragraph makes it clear that you were the one official who
saw this key intelligence report that your Department received
on or about 19 February which clearly did refer to the provision
of military helicopters and supplies in clear breach of the arms
embargo by Sandline. Obviously we can all make better decisions
with the benefit of hindsight but, with the benefit of hindsight,
do you believe that you made the wrong decision in discounting
that report because of the alleged reference to Liberia which
we do find strange and are pursuing elsewhere further details
as to how that reference to Liberia got in?
(Mr Murray) I think in the same circumstances
I would probably make the same judgement again in that there was
a lot of wrong information. It turns out there was a kernel of
very important information which I failed to discover. I can discover
it with hindsight but I am not sure putting me back there I would
discover it again. I acknowledge there was a kernel of truth I
failed to find but there was a lot of dross about it.