It’s not every day that I wake up cursing.
Leader of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen Yasin Abu Bakr is “back in the field.” Bakr, who 24 years ago today led the historic attempted coup to overthrow the Government, says that he can now solve the nation’s crime problems in a different way and is getting back on the ground to accomplish that. “Look, I don’t even have a gun. I don’t own a gun. I don’t like guns because I am pro-life and I have a heart filled with love,” he said.
In an interview with the Sunday Guardian on Friday, an energetic and jovial Bakr said for four months in 2012 he “ran” the most dangerous streets in East Port-of-Spain and “nobody raise a gun.” Bakr said he was retained as security consultant for a private company (name called) with a Housing Development Corporation contract to refurbish the apartments on Duncan and Nelson streets, Port-of-Spain.
“You could go and check what I am telling you, because I only deal with the facts and the truth. Not a gun was raised in the time I was there,” he said. Bakr believes his presence and the respect that he commands among the young, disenfranchised youths could help curb the crime rate. “We have a different approach, offer a different approach to the young men and women,” he said. He said the statistics show that when the Muslimeen was at its strongest, the murder rate in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989 was either under 100 or just above it.
“It was never as high as it is now. We will even cooperate with the police. If they have an arrest warrant for someone in our group, we will ensure that person goes to the police. We not hoarding or hiding anyone from the law,” he said.
“There are several methods to lock down the crime situation, but the police lost ground. Police cannot stop them. That clown, that Minister of National Security (Gary Griffith) said he could stop a coup in two hours, where was he during 1990? Was he in the army then? They cannot do anything to stop crime. The Prime Minister call them dogs of war and they take that,” Bakr said.
He said he had no respect for Griffith but called on him to “come clean” about the role of the soldiers in a spate of kidnappings which the Muslimeen was blamed for. “Is I who buss the mark and tell the FBI and the DEA who really doing the kidnappings,” he said.
Bakr was referring to the 2005 high profile kidnapping and subsequent death of US citizen Balram Maharaj. Four Trinidadians are currently incarcerated in Washington for Maharaj’s murder, among them Leon Walter Nurse, a former sergeant in the T&T Defence Force and a former member of the TTDF Special Forces Unit.
“I am now waiting on him (Griffith) to give the nation an update on the soldiers who were involved in Maharaj’s murder and whether they admitted to 16 other kidnappings that the police were trying to blame on us,” he said. Bakr did admit that a “breakaway faction” of the Muslimeen was established in Carapo and was in a “small fight” with another gang based in Port-of-Spain. “I know there’s a small thing between some breakaway Muslims and the Rastas (Rasta City gang),” he said.
He said the police seemed to be focussing its attention on the Carapo branch of the Jamaat and he did not know why. Bakr said he formed the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen 45 years ago and was not going to give up its leadership anytime soon. He said the member from Carapo, Rajaee Ali who has been detained twice in the past two months, was being made a scapegoat. When asked if Ali was tipped to be his successor, Bakr laughed.
“You have to be careful when you ask them kind of questions,” he said. “But nah, there is no truth to that. That is speculation, and you have to be careful when people speculate to you,” he said.
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