Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Panday tells commission: I had no previous knowledge of coup
A serious lapse by the security forces, growing discontentment in some quarters of the society and the insanity of Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr were some of the elements which caused the 1990 insurrection. This from former prime minister Basdeo Panday as he testified yesterday before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Henry Street, Port-of-Spain on Monday in the sixteenth and final session of the enquiry. Panday in his evidence responded to allegations made by several previous witnesses, including former prime minister and president Arthur NR Robinson, Selby Wilson, Raymond Palackdharrysingh, Dr Emmanuel Hosein, Wendell Eversely and Rawle Raphael. Robinson was prime minister when members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen stormed the Red House on July 27, 1990. Robinson told the commissioners that Panday, who was part of the coalition National Alliance for Reconstruction government, wanted to bring down his government before Bakr staged the coup.
Asked by lead counsel to the commission Avory Sinanan, SC, if he believed the responses from the national security forces were satisfactory when the coup occurred, Panday said, “Quite frankly, I don’t know how they responded.” Panday also scolded those who he said had taken his statement, “Wake me up when it’s over” out of context. The statement had been widely reported as Panday’s initial response to the insurrection. In giving a detained account of his version of what happened on that fateful day, Panday said he was in the country, but not in Parliament. “On Friday (July) 27, 1990, I attended Parliament as I had been doing since about late January or February after having open-heart surgery in London on December 24, 1989.
“I returned to Trinidad in mid-January 1990 but was unable to attend Parliament for some time, until March, because I was recuperating from the surgery,” Panday said.
He said he would normally leave at the tea break at 4.30 pm and go home to take his medication and rest. On the day of the coup, Panday said, as he was sleeping his wife was frantically trying to wake him. “Wives have a habit of waking you for the least important things but she insisted, telling me, ‘Get up, get up,’ and when I refused she said, ‘Abu Bakr is taking over the country,’” Panday said. He said he believed his wife was joking, and told her, “When it finish, wake me up.” Panday said that remark was often misconstrued. “I didn’t believe there was anyone so dunce, so thick, so stupid, as to believe this statement made in those circumstances could by the widest stretch of the imagination to constitute my knowledge and implication in this attempted coup,” Panday said. He also denied claims that he was working with the Jamaat to overthrow the NAR government and that he had had 17 black diplomatic passports delivered to Abu Bakr shortly before the coup.
Panday recounted some instances where he and former Robinson disagreed. He singled out the building of an Indian cultural centre, which Robinson had not supported. He said a Cabinet note was already prepared but Robinson refused to sign a memorandum of understanding between T&T and Guyana for the centre to be built. And promises by Robinson to stem the tide of racism, which is the “single most deleterious factor” in the country were also broken, Panday added. He said he also raised the issue with Robinson that at the time less than five per cent of appointments on state boards were given to East Indians. In his testimony, activist and former hostage Wendell Eversley criticised Panday for failing to implement a commission of enquiry into the coup when he became prime minister in 1995.
Panday said back then there were more important factors to focus on, like rebuilding infrastructure and creating employment. He said the Muslimeen organisation should not have been treated any differently in relation to the granting of tenure for the disputed parcel of land at Mucurapo. The enquiry is expected to resume on Monday, when Panday returns to the witness stand. Today the commission will hold a private sitting.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.