The Government is to establish a commission of enquiry into the bloody July 27, 1990, attempted coup by the Yasin Abu Bakr-led Jamaat al Muslimeen.
Persad-Bissessar revealed that during yesterday's post-Cabinet news conference at her office in St Clair. She said Cabinet yesterday agreed to the full-scale public probe because of calls over the past 20 years "by a generous percentage of our population for such an investigation." She insisted that the probe was not being commissioned because of any political pressure. Among those calling for the investigation were Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and former prime minister ANR Robinson, who was shot and held hostage by the insurgents during the attempted overthrow of his duly elected government. Persad-Bissessar said the inquiry was necessary because there was a need to bring finality to this matter; citizens experienced varying degrees and categories of trauma–directly and indirectly–as a result of the incident, and the need for citizens to get psychological relief.
"We feel it is important for us to have this inquiry to find out what went wrong and why it happened, so that we could take steps to avoid such a thing ever happening in this country again," the PM said. "No one is above the law and therefore if there is evidence of wrongdoing, wherever it might be, that wrongdoing will have to be dealt with by the courts of law." The names of the commissioners are expected to be sent to the President next week and work will begin as soon as possible, she added. Persad-Bissessar, who is also chairman of the National Security Council said: "We know that in 1990 firearms were brought into the country to service the intent of the insurgents (and) today we are plagued with a proliferation of firearms and ammunition in T&T."
She admitted that "most of the crimes being perpetrated are those crimes, especially the murders, that entail the use of firearms." She listed that as an additional reason for the probe to be conducted. Persad-Bissessar also confirmed that a threat on her life was made on Wednesday. "Yes, I am advised that a young attorney who had worked with me in the past was approached/accosted, whatever it may be, outside the courtroom and was told to give me a message," the PM said. "Such a threat was made yesterday and because of the wording, it would appear that the allegation points to persons who may have been associated with the lands and, therefore, the sale of the lands. "The way the allegation was phrased, we cannot say for sure, but the person did give a message that indicated it could be persons whose lands (property) would be put up for auction."
Asked if she shared the view of former prime minister Patrick Manning that death threats formed a part of her job as PM, she said she did not. "I don't think a person's life being threatened is a normal part of any job, but when I took this job, I stopped being afraid," she said. "I am not afraid, we will do our duty, we will do what we have to do," she insisted. Asked if the Government expected retaliation from the decision to sell all the Muslimeen property by public auction on the 20th anniversary of the coup, next Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar responded: "In life you expect anything." She said the security forces "will be on alert as it has been for quite some time now."