“I have no regrets and I will not apologise for what happened in 1990 because we stood up for what is right and we defended what was wrong.”
These were the words of former insurrectionist Imam Lorris Ballack, a bodyguard for the late Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, as he spoke exclusively yesterday with Guardian Media on the 32nd anniversary of the 1990 attempted coup.
While feeding the homeless on Harris Promenade and King’s Wharf, San Fernando, Ballack recalled why he got involved in the attempted coup, which left 24 people dead.
He said policewoman Bernadette James had been killed in a mock police exercise. Four days before her death, Ballack alleged that she had confided to Bakr that certain politicians wanted her dead.
“When they murdered the woman for finding politicians in the airport with cocaine and they killed her on a bus in a mock exercise ... they shot Bernadette James to the back of her head and four days before she died, she told Imam Yasin Abu Bakr what had happened. She made a tape and was murdered,” Ballack claimed.
Now in his twilight years, Ballack said he continues to look back at his past with absolutely no regrets.
Instead, he said he continues to uphold some of the values that the late Jamaat leader had instilled in him regarding the homeless, the poor and the infirmed.
“This is something Imam Yasin told us when I became a member of the Jamaat in 1985. He taught us how to look after the people on the street, look after the poor, feed the homeless on the street and help those in derelict positions,” Ballack said.
He noted that like his “beloved leader” Bakr, who died in October last year without ever apologising, he (Ballack) also does not regret his role in the coup attempt. Ballack also said successive governments had failed the nation’s youths and it was the Jamaat that had “arrested the government.”
He also outlined his recommendations to break the cycle of poverty.
“To eradicate poverty, we must start with children. When we have 15,000 writing CXC and only 3,000 gets a full academic certificate, what happens to the rest? This country has youth camps but because of mismanagement, everything collapse and children have nothing to do. That is why there is poverty,” he said.
He added, “The curriculum of the school should be changed to alleviate poverty. What they are feeding our children is not real education. What about the black men who stood up for injustice like Makandal Daaga and other black power leaders?”
Ballack also said children should be taught craft and agricultural skills.
“Teach children to use their hands for a skill or trade. Some children can do beautiful things with their hands,” he said, adding not all students are academically inclined and provision should be made for them.
Apart from the 24 people who died, over 231 were injured during the six-day ordeal of the attempted coup, which began on July 27, 1990, after the Jamaat stormed the Parliament and state-owned media house TTT. Millions of dollars in losses were also recorded by businesses as properties were damaged or looted.