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T&T still in dark 22 years after coup
The public in Trinidad and Tobago is no closer to the truth on the main players or the real cause of the Jamaat al-Muslimeen’s insurrection in 1990 when 114 members of the Muslim group stormed Parliament and held seige to TTT, the main Governmentowned television channel at the time. On that fateful Friday evening, the Muslimeen also launched an attack on the Police headquarters in Port-of- Spain. In the ensuing chaos, the capital was reduced to anarchy as looters broke into business places toting away anything they could physically carry while many buildings were set on fire causing billions of dollars in losses. The lawlessness also spread to other towns along the East-West Corridor.
In an attempt to determine the circumstances leading up to the coup and what may have contributed to it, a Commission of Enquiry began on January 24, 2011 with a caution from chairman Sir David Simmons, a Barbadian jurist. It was only the beginning of a long road which is yet to satisfy the public’s hunger for answers. Today, on the anniversary of that fateful day 22 years ago, 18 months of testimony have been recorded. Some 85 hearings have been conducted and evidence heard from 67 witnesses yet there has been no definite revelation about the reported collaborators of Jamaat al-Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr. A specific cause of the coup d’etat which resulted in several deaths and physical and psychological injury to hundreds, is yet to be determined. Witnesses have called on the commission to bring the “movers and players” who were involved to give evidence. Emmett Hennessy, former radio announcer at Trinidad Broadcasting Corporation during the coup, said these movers and players may involve those on the “Muslim side” and, if they existed, on the government’s side also. Hennessy said Customs and Excise officials should also be called to explain how a large shipment of guns came into the country undetected to be used by the Muslimeen in the coup attempt.
A few prominent Muslimeen members have testified. Highly emotional, they said the persecution of the Jamaat by the then National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government over their occupation of land at No 1 Mucurapo Road was a leading cause of their actions. Senior member Jamaal Shabazz said the killing of WPC Bernadette James in 1987 was a major cause. Tracing her death to the cocaine trade and politicians, he said James told the Jamaat she saw former NAR National Security Minister, Selwyn Richardson, a senior Defence Force member and another person in a room at Piarco Airport. James told the Jamaat, Richardson tasted something on his finger and said, “This is the real thing, but we have to put a lid on this. If we allow them to be charged it will be a big scandal and a lot of big people would be affected,” Shabazz told the enquiry. “Her opinion was that a large quanity of cocaine was intercepted by the police at the airport and it belonged to an influential family and moves were afoot to cover it up.” He said James told the Jamaat she was chastised for entering the room and ordered to leave. She said she then feared for her life.
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