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President gets final coup report today

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The final report of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 Attempted Coup will be delivered to President Anthony Carmona this morning. The report is expected to be hand-delivered to Carmona around 10.30 am at his office in St Ann’s by the commission’s chairman, former Barbados Chief Justice Sir David Simmons. 


A press release from the Office of the President sent yesterday afternoon said the other four members of the commission—Sir Richard Lionel Cheltenham, QC, Dr Haffizool Ali-Mohammed, Dr Eastlyn McKenzie and Diana Mahabir-Wyatt—are also expected to attend the short meeting. The report consists of three volumes accompanied by an executive summary. 


Hearings of the enquiry, held at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, ended in September last year, after more than 100 witnesses appeared before the commission in 17 sessions including several in-camera hearings which were closed to the public and the media. Some of those who were directly involved in the bloody uprising or who were victims or relatives of victims testified. Among the main witnesses were former prime ministers Arthur NR Robinson and Basdeo Panday. 


Robinson, PM at the time, was among the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) MPs who were held hostage for six days in Parliament, and he was shot and wounded. Those witnesses told the commission how they went without food and water and lay bound and gagged on the floor of the Parliament chamber with guns to their heads while rebels and the soldiers exchanged gunfire.


In his testimony in September last year, Panday, who was not present in Parliament at the time, denied allegations that he had  prior knowledge of the insurrection. Former prime minister Patrick Manning was also absent from Parliament during the ordeal. He did not testify after suffering a stroke in 2012. Members of the Defence Force, including Col Hugh Vidale and retired Major General Ralph Brown and the late former Brig Joe Theodore, who played a key role in helping to quell the insurrection, also gave evidence. 


Former Jamaat insurgent Jamaal Shabazz, who led the takeover of the Trinidad Broadcasting Company, also testified. Despite his role in the insurrection, Yasin Abu Bakr refused to appear before the commission on two occasions, saying that his evidence might prejudice his pending sedition trial. His refusal led the commission to file a private criminal complaint against him, which is currently before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar. 


The commission, which began in November 2010 and ended almost three years later, was not free from controversy. Last year there was uncertainty as to whether the enquiry would continue, as questions were raised about the academic qualifications of one of the commissioners, Dr Ali-Mohammed. Despite pressure from the public, Mohammed did not resign and eventually completed his job on the commission.  


1990 coup attempt
The attempted insurrection, which began on July 27, 1990, was led by Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr and involved 113 insurrectionists, who held parliamentarians hostage at the Red House and also invaded state-owned television station T&T Television and the Trinidad Broadcasting Company at Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain.


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