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Poor turnout at coup ceremony

Published: 
Monday, July 28, 2014
Former 1990 attempted coup hostage Wendell Eversley lays a wreath at the foot of the eternal flame in remembrance of those who died at the Red House during the uprising. The wreath laying was preceeded by Eversley’s walk from the Arima Dial to Port-of-Spain yesterday. PHOTO: ROBERTO CODALLO

The 24th anniversary of the 1990 attempted coup was yesterday forgotten by most, a reality lambasted by Joseph Toney, former government minister and Red House hostage. Apart from the six men who lit 13 candles at the site of the eternal flame at the front of the Red House there was no ceremony to mark one of the darkest days in the nation’s history.

The six stood for several moments near the monument, on which was inscribed the Oath of Allegiance of Members of Parliament, the National Anthem, the Affirmation of the People and the names of the victims of the attempted coup. “If the Government and the Opposition is not showing a caring heart for those who died and suffered when our democracy was assaulted, the population will take their cue from them,” Toney said.

“This was an attempt to crush our democracy. It was an assault on our way of life and this is why this event must be remembered for all time, that July 1990, a band of thugs from Mucurapo came to the Parliament and attempted to overthrow the Government of the day and they were repelled.”

Toney was one of a few people who responded to a call by another former hostage, Wendell Eversley, to light candles at the Red House, in order to commemorate the day, which resulted in loss of life of 26 people, left several citizens injured, chaos in the capital city after widespread looting and Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson being shot and tortured. Robinson passed away in April of this year.

Eversley walked from Arima to Port-of-Spain between the hours of 6 am and shortly after noon yesterday. He said the coup attempt was an attack on democracy and criticised the lack of a commemoration from public officials. “We had a week tribute for Nelson Mandela (the former South African president who died last December), we welcomed it, T&T welcomed it, but where was Roger Samuel (Minister of Diversity and Social Integration) to go length and breadth to say today is July 27th.

“Did he take a note to Cabinet calling on Government to remember July 27, 1990? I went by the office of the Opposition Leader (Dr Keith Rowley) and he never came out. They don’t care. Where are the government senators, opposition senators and independent senators?” Eversely asked. Manohar Singh, who still has a scar in his left foot from a stray bullet which hit him while he was walking through Port-of-Spain during the coup attempt, said he was disappointed in the lack of support by the government.

“The Government must honour this day. We must make sure that this never happens again in T&T.” Another hostage, Rawle Raphael, who is a former MP under the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), said he had been forever changed by the attempted coup. “I applaud the Prime Minister for setting up the Commission of Enquiry but we who suffered for six days in the Parliament in 1990, need our compensation now. Do not wait till we are dead to do something.”

Michael Eastman, activist, and former Youth Officer of the NAR Elias Dick also lit candles.

Abu Bakr responds
Leader of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen Yasin Abu Bakr, in an interview yesterday, said government had ignored the recommendations into the Commission of Enquiry into the insurrection which he led 24 years ago. Bakr led 114 men in the uprising, seizing control of the Red House and the then state-owned television station at Maraval. “Government paid millions for the commission of enquiry and have ignored the recommendation that the land and school issues should be settled. Today, nothing has been done.”

The Jamaat had been in a battle with the Port-of-Spain corporation after losing close to half of the 8.8 acres of land it had leased from the corporation. He said the muslimeen had been constantly provoked prior to 1990, with weekly raids on the mosque and an elite squad of the army aimed at eliminating the muslimeen. “Today is the anniversary and 24 years later we are praying that God will make a better T&T for us.” Abu Bakr said, since 1990 the country had gotten worse.