Police Mutiny

By Raffique Shah
April 19, 2015

Raffique ShahOn the morning of Monday, March 23, when I became aware of the massive traffic gridlocks in several strategic arteries across the country occasioned by the police purportedly conducting legitimate roadblocks, my immediate reaction was, “This is mutiny!”

Later that evening, when television footage showed police officers of varying ranks holding tens of thousands of law-abiding motorists and commuters hostage, trapped in scorching heat and toxic exhaust fumes with no chance to escape, I thought that by the following morning I would wake up to hear that scores of police officers had been suspended from duty pending investigations into their misconduct.

Instead, what followed were differing explanations for the mutiny.

Executive members of the Police Social Welfare Association, which is locked in battle with the Chief Personnel Officer over increases in wages and salaries, said they had nothing to do with the exercises that crippled the country for that day.

Later, the acting acting (no joke intended) Commissioner of Police, Ann-Marie Alleyne-Daly, publicly apologised for the disruption and torture her officers inflicted on the people that the police are duty-bound to protect and serve. And even as the Ag CoP appointed ACP Vincel Edwards to conduct an enquiry into sordid affair, many police officers were sniggering, whispering among themselves, “We show dem what police could do!”

ACP Edwards’ task was not an easy one, as he explained in his succinct report. He was sure to encounter hostility from his fellow-officers, from those very junior to him to his seniors, as he explained. That he was able to produce a report in quick time is a miracle given the stasis that has long engulfed the Police Service.

He coined the term “malicious obedience” to describe the cover of “total policing day” that many of the officers who were interviewed used to justify their participation in the nationwide “lockdown”. And he surmised that for six hours that fateful morning, “First Division officers in charge of six Police Divisions, and Second Division officers who were in charge of six named police stations lost control of their divisions and stations respectively to a small group of junior officers…”

In other words, superintendents, inspectors and sergeants were acting on orders from corporals and constables—orders that resulted in tens of thousands of citizens being imprisoned in vehicles.

That, my friends, was a mutiny—and I say this as the Mutineer-General of Trinidad and Tobago, the junior officer who led some 300 soldiers in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks exactly 45 years ago.

Now, this may come across as a case of Satan correcting sin.

It is not.

I do not have the moral authority to condemn anyone who stages or participates in a mutiny.

But I have the authority to say that mutineers must face the consequences of their actions, be it dismissal from their jobs, jail or death.

My merry men and I spent 27 months “inside” for our actions (Hola, geezers out there in Mayaro, happy anniversary!) .

But back to the present—and the future.

Besides the breakdown in discipline in the Police Service, which did not happen overnight, there is the critical question of the intelligence agencies that ought to have known what was being planned for that Monday morning, and to have informed the authorities, among them the Minister (Ret Brigadier Carl Alfonso), the acting CoP, and Chief of Defence Staff Major-General Kenrick Maharaj.

The Special Branch, the main intelligence unit in the service, either knew nothing, or if it did, failed to act on the information. Worse, according to the Edwards report, one sergeant donned uniform (hence broke his cover) and joined in torturing motorists. And the female head of the branch “pulled rank” on the investigator.

Such abuse of rank to stymie or abort internal investigations is not new to the Service. Back in the 1990s when the Government brought in Scotland Yard officers to investigate irregularities in the Service, the “Yardies” ran into several stonewalls. Police officers chased them from stations and cussed their “mudder”. One very senior officer brandished his pistol and threatened them.

And lest we forget, police officers, armed and in uniform, staged a rowdy protest march around the Red House calling for the dismissal of the then Minister of National Security, Russel Huggins. Not one was disciplined and the frustrated “Yardies” fled back to London.

That is “what police could do” and get away with, even as they beat, arrest and charge ordinary workers and citizens who stage peaceful protests.

Further on intelligence (or lack thereof), whatever happened to the highly-touted National Operations Centre when the country was caught in a gridlock? Were its principals victims of the “total policing” action, trapped in traffic?

Commander Garvin Heerah boasts of the NOC’s immense capabilities, its monitoring of the country’s air, sea and land spaces. With scores of CCTV cameras strategically located across the country, and monitored around the clock by trained personnel, one would think that the police mutiny would have been noted from early o’clock and nipped in the bud.

What Mutiny Monday exposed is that for all the money invested in the fight against crime and in securing the country, we are no safer now than we were in 1970 or 1990.

14 thoughts on “Police Mutiny”

  1. I am a strong supporter of the police because they are paid to do the dirty job of hunting down killers, thieves and maintaining law and order. However judging from this article the unionized officers exceeded their duties and acted as criminals instead. I have always believed that for the police there is a fine line between being an officer and being a criminal. That line could and have been crossed from time to time.

    So what can and should be done is suspension of those who broke ranks. I don’t think they should lose their jobs but indiscipline cannot be condone or else every officer can simply do what he feel is right and no police force can operate that way.

  2. Clear and present danger

    Newsday Editorial
    Sunday, April 19 2015

    NOT ONLY does the report into the events of “total policing” Monday raise the prospect of a clear and present danger — to use the words of Minister of National Security Brigadier Carl Alfonso — within the Police Service, but the report also raises fresh and alarming questions.

    The report of Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Vincel Edwards was tabled in the House of Representatives by Alfonso on Friday after it was considered by the National Security Council the day prior. Previously, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams had declined to make the report public, prompting justified outcry given the importance of the Police Service as an institution, as well as the widespread, dire impact the events of March 23 had on the citizenry and on the business sector. So we welcome the tabling of the report.

    The report finds that “malicious obedience” to prior directives occurred and was allowed to occur due to break downs in police command. It also reveals for the first time that members of the Special Branch, the Guard and Emergency Branch and the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) took part in the street blockade activities. Edwards states that several intelligence-gathering units did not have reports of the activity prior.

    While Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar took steps on Friday to emphasise that it was only a small band of junior officers who were responsible, we cannot take comfort in this. In fact, it is the opposite. It is precisely because such a small band was able to so effectively cause widespread harm and to bring the Service into such disapprobrium, that the nation should be concerned. “Clear and present danger” is no hollow sound-bite in this context: what was painfully demonstrated on that fateful Monday is how vulnerable the Police Service is to small groups in strategic places.

    We cannot say for sure whether, as in 1970 and 1990, the State was caught sleeping. Yet, Edwards’s findings would suggest so. This is why while we agree with the decision to table the report in Parliament, we do not agree with the decision to refer the matter to a tiresome Parliament committee for scrutiny. Instead, the matter should go immediately to a Commission of Inquiry, which is in fact one of the recommendations contained in the report. A judge-led inquiry is needed to fully probe and ventilate all of the issues, to identify causes and make recommendations as to how these matters should be addressed.

    It is important to note that Edwards found that the technical legal definition for industrial action was not made out. Yet, it was clear enough to the investigating officer that the coordinated activity — spanning Trinidad and Tobago — was “malicious obedience”. But if the blockade on March 23 was not a form of protest for higher pay, what was it? In one sense, citizens would be reassured if it were to be conclusively shown that the cops were acting for more pay. That would provide a clear motive. Yet, the absence of such opens many other possibilities. Was this an act of terrorism? Of insurrection? All of these are questions a thorough inquiry should ventilate.

    In any event, Edward’s findings in relation to the legal definition of industrial action is unlikely to convince that the matter was wholly irrelevant to ongoing wage talks, though it does underline the gaps in the law on the question of police protest and signal the nature of the substantial barriers to disciplinary action in this matter.

    Another disturbing aspect of the report is the fact that the investigating officer reports that he did not get cooperation from the Head of the Special Branch. Further, the scope of the recommendations in the report differs greatly from what was communicated by the then Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams in early April. This, too, shows why the matter must be handled by an independent inquiry which is capable of seeking answers without barriers such as policies and cultures within the organisation of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.


  3. “What Mutiny Monday exposed is that for all the money invested in the fight against crime and in securing the country, we are no safer now than we were in 1970 or 1990.”……..Raffique Shah
    May I add, “well said Raff”. As with everything else in Trinidad and Tobago, judgement is always quick without understanding the full ramifications of may or may not be a mutiny. Based on what we know or what was contained in the report by Vincel Edwards, there does not appear to be enough evidence to conclusively label the action as that amounting to a mutiny. “Malicious Obedience” may not be the proper term either, because the word malicious suggests an intention to do harm, whilst the word obedience suggests compliance with an order. The only thing is that based on the report nothing has been stated conclusively regarding and order to submit to malicious obedience. It is my belief that my good friend Carl (and we were such when we both served) Alfonso, should have sanctioned more than one inquiry into the event before taking one man’s view of it into the parliament. In so doing he would have had the advantage of exposure to more than one version of this incident, by which a reasonable analysis can be drawn. With the publication of Vincel Edwards’ version of the incident and tabling the motion in the house of representatives, there is nothing now to suggest or ensure that any subsequent inquiry into the incident would bear fruit or unearth intentional rebellion by members of the police service. Like the military or para military organization there is a code of silence and brotherhood amongst those who serve. That is a strong bond that cannot be easily broken by any amount of political or overtly commandeering by senior officers of men in the rank and file who watch each others back. In the past, what commanders have done is gather knowledgeable and professional people, either local or foreign from other parts of the para military service such as the Coast Guard, Judiciary, retired judges etc to form a committee with knowledge of fact finding to look into the matter. It is more like that such a group would be a more viable alternative than one ACP reporting on his profession and colleagues. There can certainly be many variables to this story that would be useful in correcting the problems (if any) that belies the reason why this occurred. But now we will never know because, it is quite likely that voice will be heard near and far seeking to punish member of the service for what is casually labelled a “mutiny” or “malicious obedience” or “active policing”. This report does not shed the light on what really occurred and the fallout from it will certainly close all openings to what could have been a more enlightening outcome had a comprehensive approach been utilized to gain better knowledge of the incident. There is no doubt that politicians will use it to gain whatever notoriety they can get out it’s exposure. The public will be no wiser in terms of what really occurred and there is a good likelihood that putting police against police can create conditions within the service where there will be strained relations amongst it’s ranks.

    1. Shut you mouth Kian. The police was hired to ensure that there is law and order in society. They work for the honest law abiding citizens of this nation. If they have a wage dispute or feel they are underpaid then they can go and find another job. The government cannot give everyone huge increases. There is only so much money in the pot. Using your powers to inconvenience citizens is morally and ethically wrong. Children got home late could not get to exams on time, citizens suffered for hours in the hot Sun. People missed their flights, sick people had to cancel surgery because they could not get to the hospital on time. Employees could not get to work on time shipments were delayed. Multiply that thousands of times over, how could that be right in a civil society???

      1. Mamoo, apparently you don’t read or when you read you don’t understand. The issues that I addressed is how the matter was dealt with, not police pay, not negotiations, not disputes, not being underpaid. It is apparent you don’t understand issues. I did not ask the government to deal with huge increase, I also did not address ethics or children being sick or people working hard. It is obvious that you and TMan have your own agenda. Again, just to remind you, my commentary was not about anything you mentioned. It was ONLY and ONLY process on how the inquiry was conducted, nothing else. No wonder why you guys call me a dinosaur. Well, I prefer to called that than to be misunderstood!

  4. The coinage of the term ‘malicious obedience’ is an oxymoron just as the term awfully pretty. However, The analogy that springs to my mind is the co-pilot that downed that Lufthansa aircraft into the Alps. Co-pilot (alias ‘terrorist’ labeled mentally unstable) is inside the cockpit and the washroom- relieved pilot is on the outside trying desperately to get inside the cockpit to rescue the penultimate death of all. Apparently the tools we put to safeguard us e.g., locking the cockpit door from the inside tends to work against us in some systems, in this case security. How many times burglar proofing is to keep the thief outside when our safety becomes compromised in a case of emergency. The police who is supposed to protect and serve are literally telling their superiors what they are doing. Another oxymoron, leading from behind (in this case under). Raff, another good article, I would not worry about Satan correcting sin but to be aware of the wolves amongst us wearing sheep clothing. Warnings of a mutiny on the bounty, with the bounty being power control.

  5. The report by ACP Edwards, the blog by Shah and the comments by other commentators make it more difficult for me and the public at large to determine what really happened on March 23rd 2015.
    I feel that the PCA should have done the enquiry instead of ACP Edwards. I understand that they are in the process of investigating the issue. I hope that they would act quickly and that their findings will give us a clearer idea of what actually happened on March 23.

  6. “Total Policing’ symptom of deep-set disorder
    The Police Service, stricken by bad press, remains the focus of bedevilling concerns that offer no clear pathway toward resolution. While the count keeps rising of citizens shot dead by police, a steady stream of officers hauled before the court on criminal charges only confirms the existence of some things rotten inside this pivotal national security agency.

  7. “the count keeps rising of citizens shot dead by police, a steady stream of officers hauled before the court on criminal charges only confirms the existence of some things rotten inside this pivotal national security agency.”

    Oh AfrobuddahSunGod ,and this is now getting beyond ridiculous. ‘Enough already’-as we like to say on the streets-with this escapist ,disingenuous,phony outrage ,about criminality,as if most of you truly care?
    Well,I take dat back,for our boy ,former Journalists,Andy Johnson,and now Kamla’s ,image consultant/ Chief re elections strategist, must earn his exorbitant salary,ummmm….. 30 pieces of silver ,si?
    The fact remain,that more PP ,high end ,and mid level political figures,as well as their well placed cronies,have been caught with their knickers,and jockstraps ,pulled to their knees,as well as similar compromising positions,and yet the media have been silent as a Caroni Central mouse.


    More citizens have been shot by other citizens,over drugs, brought in by business containers,while using guns, which came into T&T,via our porous agua borders.
    Someone cancelled three OVP ships ,that were carded ,to patrol our borders,so as to keep out prospective illegals,drugs,and small arms weapons.
    When you comatose members of the 4th Estate,are finally prepared ,to take the Kamla led PP,to task ,for such an idiocy,we’ll know you are serious about law & order ,runaway crimes ,and murdered Trinis.
    If citizens can live with former AG Rammy, with his repeated neo -criminal shenanigans,plus ,selectively directed prosecutions ,of phantom enemies, Basdeo Panday ,continually eluding justice,along with UNC high financial gurus ,Ish /Steve,a drunken anti -breathalyzer, Junior National Security Minister- bum ,Colin Patrap,that Latina prostitute abusing ,drug fien ,Chief Dougla Anil,the savage ,Tom cat,dead beat dad -woman abusing Pundit MP Sharma,and the ever lying Dr Glen ,who has no compunction whatsoever,with making a repeated mockery, of our laws/legal system,then you comedians ,can likewise tolerate, T&T Police,for utilizing what ever industrial action strategies ,they deem necessary,to make Kamla ,and her tribal goons recognize,what time it is,or to quote Uncle Shah,..”to see,what police can do.”

    Pray someone tell me,how de hell do these two Afro eat ah food former labor giants,turn silent,UNC- PP beneficiaries -in Wade- MBA-Mark,and Errol Mc Cloud -ever sleep at nights?
    Former ULF/UNC George Weeks,and that National labor fighter,Tubal Uriah Butler,who did all the dirty ,anti colonial ,heavy lifting for Papa defy Eric Williams,and his PNM,must be turning over in their respective graves ,to see what labor rights ,have evolved to,under these ungrateful,undemocratic political figures.
    If Kamla ,and her handlers, don’t like what (some stupidly deem ),as an African controlled ,pro PNM Police Service,then let her force through another stupid bill , to give T&T soldiers, powers of arrest ,or better yet,resign ,and make Commander Alfonso the PM,after pushing for another illegal State of Emergency,or is it curfew.
    Oh ,and by de way Acting Commissioner Williams ,asked me ,to tell her thanks ,for having him in that tenuous,embarrassing position, for five years,and no,he ain’t resigning either.
    Tell me folks ,and let’s play Devil’s advocate,’ for a bit,shall we?
    If an African leader ,of a T&T political entity,after first firing ,an Indian boss,had replaced him with a White Canadian guy,then kept his Indo Trini successor,in an acting position, for 5 years,what would be de war cry?
    You bet! I am almost certain ,these hypocritical, media clowns , and the business party supporting benefactors of the institutionally discredited,would be marching on 1st Avenue and 42nd.St Manhattan,trying to convince Ban Ki Moon ,or the Security Council ,to get involve,over this racial anomaly,won’t they?
    So in essence,you practicality destroy their moral,to enhance your tribal purges,force fed the PP -micro managed organization ,with what looked like 200 ,000 ,simi educated,closet criminal SRPs,all the while, burdening the society,with clueless ,military National Security Minister blokes ,as well as weed heads/indiscipline creatures, from the Tethron Gangreen camp ,then wonder why crime is escalating,and they the Police ,as a whole ,choose every chance ,to give the government,and country the middle finger.
    Why the hell Kamla did not likewise play hard ball with Caroni workers,re their stolen HCU pensions ,or State lands handout?
    Yeah ,we know what’s rotten to de core ,and is smelly,but it ain’t our much maligned,boys and gals in Blue ,& grey-trust me on that!
    This Causeway,along with the Couva Hospital will be built,and or completed,but no ,it won’t be by You Auntie K.


    Our T&T,is in dire need of good ,honest,transparent government,and guidance along a part of prudent ,sustainable development, but you PP blokes,won’t know what that is,if it rose up from the ground,and strike ‘you alze ,’in the face!
    Put differently,hard working,maligned citizens,have had enough,and are therefore saying ‘no mas!’
    ‘If you can’t take de heat,as we like to say in de streets ,then it’s time to get out de kitchen,’simple.


    With oil prices now ,what seems like 10 dollars per barrel……ok,nuff said!
    Hey Auntie K,we know you and Dr Fraud ,ain’t give a hoot ,about de plight of dem nurses here ,but just when is that elections again,or are you awaiting a real Mutiny-unlike the one that occurred in 1970,and this one ,the (still gloating)sly fox/ever provocative,Uncle Shah is trying to manufacture here?
    Just kidding,Uncle Shah!
    Long live the Republic of T&T!
    Stay vigilant people!
    I love this land, Y tu?

  8. What is thoroughly needed in this country is education on conflict resolution. Whilst it might be tempting and to some extent justifiable to associate the so-called “malicious obedience” with the Police Welfare Association’s quest for better wages, there is absolutely nothing in the report to conclude such a claim. What is needed is to have the proper people with the proper skills do the investigating. Not because one has a title such as “ASP” or “ACP” does not in itself mean that he/she is qualified to investigate such a problem. The Minister of National Security was tactically mistaken in not pursuing the investigation by means, other than using a police officer to conduct the investigation. The damage has already been done in terms of evidence collection, because the Minister chose to take the matter to the political arena, rather than pursue administrative means of gathering evidence. Would the police be cooperative after the exposure? I rather think not!.

    1. No what you need is a “Gestapo” type organization independent of police and army to keep them all in a straight line. All this stupidness would stop immediately.

  9. Be careful of what you beg for Mamboo. Remember Ch. 5 verse 24, of de Bagwas Gita,states,and I quote:- ‘Whosoever Diggeth a Pit Shall Fall in It.’
    I take dat back,for maybe it’s de Holy Koran.
    A word of caution,mi undemocratic ,country hating bozo.
    You folks can’t continually run to Mama England,Canada,and America,and cry racial prosecution again,once this Gestapo get going.
    Talk about a trologian comedian!

  10. This is a government that definitely don’t know how to govern. When you govern by spite and intimidation DONT EXPECT TO HAVE PEACE AND HARMONY in return. IN OTHER words don’t give vinegar and salt and expect honey and sugar in return. Governance should be by policy and policy only, and with the execution of those policies it should exact efficiency and fairness. I am no fan of Ancil Roget, but to use tactics like intimidation to get him into returning to the machine shop at Petrotrin, instead of doing what he was elected by his Union to do, is foolish, petty and dangerous to his organization and its members. Was Errol McLeod ever harassed by any government, when he was President General of the OWTU? NO. They negotiated with him in good faith, even though those negotiations were adversarial and sometimes not in the government’s favor. But now the shoe is on the other foot. In negotiating the labor settlement, will we see Errol McLeod the union leader or Errol McLeod the UNC labour minister emerging? Bets are, we will see the sycophantic labor minister emerging. – Then why is Kamla and her cohorts using nazi like tactics to silence Roget into submission? This tactic is dictatorial and nazi like that runs contrary to democratic principles. When Vindictiveness and spite replaces competence in lieu of policy, it connotes more than just an illusion of government’s intention, it sends the message that we have a tit-for-tat government. Anand Ramlogan’s tenure as Attorney General and his subsequent dismissal was not business-as-usual or should ever be considered as business-as-usual. In his position he was the legal guardian of EVERY citizen’s constitutional rights. It was his responsibility to protect the rights of EVERY individual regardless of political persuasion, race, creed or national origin. He held a post that is considered by the constitution as the second most important after the Prime Minister. Again, as AG he held the most important legal assignment to protect my rights and that of any individual under the constitution. The title of AG is NOT, I repeat NOT to be the Prime Minister’s chief ‘Dogs of War’ but to safeguard the constitutional rights of everybody. So when Devant Maharaj defends Anand’s dog of war behavior and compares it with Ramesh Lawrence Maharaja tenure and John Jeremie’s tenure as AG, he is in fact c comparing apples and oranges because Anand tenure is being judged by his performance compared to his constitutional mission. When such comparison is made, Anand Ramlogan does have a case to answer. If Kamla does not do it, then the next government has an obligation to pursue it. This is a government that wants to drown the voices of each and every one of it’s critic. Any government, no matter how sacred or good intentioned, will always be subject to criticisms. But because we have one that is staffed by incompetence, small-mindedness and spite, they will always find in people, enemies who do not share their beliefs. A heavy handed treatment will always be the preferred method of punishment because they are scared to death that the people will reject them the next time around. In the case of the Police ‘malicious obedience’ label, Brig. Alfonso lowered his esteem when he chose to deal with the matter politically than using his skills as an experienced general than to curry favor by trying to please his PM, using intimidating political tactics rather renowned military tools, like tribunals to arrive at a more informed consensus about what the Police did on March 23. Carl is too smart a military officer than to allow himself to be caught in the corner of Kamla’s wishes than to do the right thing. So, in conclusion, there is evidence that what we have is governance by spite and intimidation. It shows in the government’s action towards Roget. It shows in it’s response to Ramlogan’s use of using his friends for monetary gains rather than prudence, in his tenure as AG. And now it shows in Carl Alfonso’s response to the Police action. If that is not bad governance, then, can we describe this behavior as good governance?

  11. Hey Susan Francois, why don’t you just enjoy your glorified job ,as head of the Financial Intelligence Unit-courtesy sister Setahal- while it last?
    Yeah, we want,maligned, Acting Commissioner of Police Willow,and his boys /gals of grey ,& Blue ,to “do their work,”by solving the hundreds of pending (gun related )murder cases, across our country.
    We also want you to do your job ,and eradicate ,a few of dem UNC dominant,PP supporting ,White color bandits ,that have been preying on our country/unsuspecting citizens.


    Still confuse people -after been burdened with four,policy devoid , National Security Ministers in 5 years -as to why, Police will fail in their efforts to solve crimes, in corrupt,tribally fractured T&T?
    If so,then look no further ,than in the case of Extra Foods heiress,whose husband it is alleged,had an affair, with her underage daughter ,sat on his $80,000 sofa for 45 minutes, clipping his ugly toenails,and respond to Facebook messages ,all the while ,as low end,diabolical bandits ,escaped with his kidnapped wife-before finally deciding, to seek police help-then attempted to bribe someone in the DPP office,as he tried to deflect blame ,and possible charges.
    Wanna bet,who gave him the heads up ,on pending charges?
    Oh,and by de way,in case some of you forgot,legal luminary Danna ,was the lead prosecutor ,in the case ,involving his ex wife.
    Any of you ‘smell a rat’ yet-as we like to say on the streets?

    Thank goodness,someone remembered,that one of the greatest,and most honest AG,in the history of our country,in Selwyn Richardson,was also murdered,and his case remained unsolved to date.
    It’s 2015,and dem clueless FBI blokes ,still can’t find Hofstra body,or even figure out ,who assassinated JFK,but yet,stupid ,gullible Trinis ,think they can solve de SM Jaleel ,coke /juice can mystery,much less,Auntie Seethal murder.
    We wish dem well!
    Here is an idea-I say, fire our entire T&T Police ,and replace them with the more competent blokes from Mumbai,and Karachi,if dat make ‘you alze,’ feel any better ,ummmmm?
    What’s dat,you luv de ancestral lands,and such,but have your limits?
    I get it,you prefer the security experts ,from them,White Euro dominant fiefdoms.
    Long live the Republic of Tobag..,oooops,…..lo siento,T&T!

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