Bartleman chose not to ruffle any feathers! Not surprising the victim's families are upset.
Bartleman had reasons for waiting 22 years to share Air India evidence
Last Updated: Friday, May 4, 2007 | 5:29 PM ET
James Bartleman says he waited 22 years to go public with a stunning piece of evidence about the Air India bombing because he had already given the information to the RCMP and was certain the force was handling it appropriately.
Ontario Lt.-Gov. James Bartleman speaks to reporters Friday in Toronto about his Air India inquiry testimony.Ontario Lt.-Gov. James Bartleman speaks to reporters Friday in Toronto about his Air India inquiry testimony.
(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Bartleman, the former head of intelligence for Foreign Affairs, met with reporters Friday in Toronto to explain why he waited until this week to reveal he had received information about a specific threat to Air India days before Flight 182 blew up in 1985.
He unexpectedly testified about the information at the Air India inquiry on Thursday.
"I am aware of the strong public interest on why I did not speak out for so many years," Bartleman, who is now Ontario's lieutenant-governor, told reporters Friday at Queen's Park.
"I want to reiterate in front of you my reasons for not doing so."
He said he acted "immediately" when he received the highly classified document in the days before the bombing.
It said an Air India flight would be targeted on the weekend that Flight 182 blew up over the west coast of Ireland. All 329 people on board were killed.
A separate luggage bomb destined for a second Air India flight killed two Japanese baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita airport.
Bartleman says he acted 'within five minutes'
"Within five minutes of seeing that document, I was showing it, by hand, to a senior RCMP officer in a position to take action," said Bartleman, who cannot recall who the officer was.
During his testimony Thursday, Bartleman said the RCMP officer brushed him off and told him the force knew about the information.
Bartleman on Friday stressed that he had no doubt the RCMP would handle the information appropriately.
As the lengthy Air India criminal investigations were carried out over the next two decades, Bartleman said he never thought it appropriate to speak out about the information he had.
"I had nothing further to add to the RCMP," he said. "They had the information. I had confirmed it with them before the tragic event."
He also noted he was no longer overseeing intelligence and security for the government, and was out of the country for almost 13 years, working as a diplomat.
Bartleman felt compelled to speak at inquiry
He said he only felt compelled to step forward in 2005, when former Ontario premier Bob Rae led a federal review that concluded there should be an inquiry to probe the investigation into the Air India bombing. The inquiry began in June 2006.
"I then came forward," Bartleman said. "Since I was director general of intelligence and security at the time of the terrible events, I believed I could be of assistance to the inquiry.
"I thought it was my civic duty to tell the commission what I knew, whatever the consequences."
Bartleman did not answer reporters' questions after he gave his statement on Friday at Queen's Park, saying he couldn't because the inquiry is continuing and he didn't want to compromise it.
He referred questions to his lawyer.
Families not surprised by Bartleman's testimony
Prior to Bartleman's press conference, a spokesman for the families of Air India victims said he hopes Bartleman's testimony at the inquiry will encourage more people to come forward with information.
Hari Venkatacharya said revelations Thursday at the Air India inquiry caused feelings of shock, anger and outrage among victims' families, but not surprise.Hari Venkatacharya said revelations Thursday at the Air India inquiry caused feelings of shock, anger and outrage among victims' families, but not surprise.
Hari Venkatacharya said he received a flurry of phone calls and e-mails Thursday after Bartleman testified.
"It was a bombshell. An absolute bombshell," said Venkatacharya, whose wife lost her first husband and two children in the 1985 disaster.
Venkatacharya said Bartleman's revelations caused feelings of shock, anger and outrage, but not surprise.
"We've always felt there have been people with information out there who have not come forward," he said.
"We're hoping that because of the courage of Bartleman coming forward, even though it's delayed, that others will come forward now to say 'Let's put this on the record.'"
The inquiry, headed by retired Supreme Court justice John Major, resumed Friday with a focus on leads, tips and warnings that surfaced before the disaster.
The suspected mastermind of the plot, Talwinder Singh Parmar, was arrested in November 1985, but was freed because there wasn't enough evidence to hold him. He died seven years later in India in what officials said was a police shootout.
Bombmaker Inderjit Singh Reyat was sent to prison in 2003 for manslaughter.
Two other men, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted of all charges in 2005 after the costliest investigation and prosecution in Canadian history.