Twenty years after, but not too late to hear in detail the circumstances surrounding the events of the 1990 attempted coup on the democracy of Trinidad and Tobago. That succeeding governments and the population could have allowed the years to go by without such a commission of enquiry as being held now is beyond understanding. But thankfully, it has started. We expect too that there will be need for the hearings to be extended and perhaps the scope widened because there are many details, claims and counter claims to be probed. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at the moment under deep scrutiny for the so obvious blunders surrounding the appointment of Reshmi Ramnarine, should take a moment out of her stress and receive credit for having the courage to do what her predecessors failed to do for 20 long years.
Already, we have heard then prime minister ANR Robinson go into some detail about the events in the Red House on that day of shame, and very significantly, the political machinations, as he related them, that went on before the days on which the actual coup was attempted. His revelations about the conflict within the coalition National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government were quite interesting and should be instructive to the regime of today. Indeed, the experience of the NAR should guide the path of all political forces who would attempt to fashion a political union out of the historically disparate elements of the society.
The political recounting by senior statesman Robinson would be particularly useful in what we often call a "nine-day wonder" society which pays little attention beyond the headlines of the present. Yet again, and whatever the criticisms he faced as prime minister and president, his testimony brought into focus the courage and patriotism demonstrated by Mr Robinson when he was under fire and brimstone from the Muslimeen gunmen. That is uncommon sacrifice in the cause of others and he must be admired and cherished. His courage and valour were even more noteworthy when there were other leaders of the time who did not leave their places of comfort and only surfaced when it was safe to do so. It is easy for many to talk about sacrifice and what they have done for their country in peacetime; it is something else to put your life on the line when your country's democracy is threatened.
In this respect, we do hope that both Mr Panday and Mr Manning make themselves available to provide testimony at the enquiry so that they help to clarify the historical record and explain some of the political occurrences of the last decade and a half. It is expected too that Mr Robinson's statement, as he gets to finish it, should trigger responses by those who may legitimately feel they have their own story to tell as it may contradict what Mr Robinson has and will say. In respect to coup leader Bakr, he should now come forward and make good on the many allegations he has made over many years about who were co-conspirators in his plans and substantiate them under direct examination and cross-examination.
Details also told to the commission by then minister Joseph Toney and long-time agitator for the commission, Wendell Eversley, who was a spectator in the chamber on the day, are also of significance and fill in many spaces that have been up for question. Ultimately, the major purpose of the enquiry must be to inform the present of the past and to instruct the country's conduct of its politics into the future.