By George Alleyne
July 07, 2010 – newsday.co.tt
With the 20th anniversary of the 1990 coup attempt virtually around the corner will the People’s Partnership Administration hold an Inquiry into the July 27, 1990 incident or will it follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, the National Alliance for Reconstruction, the People’s National Movement and the United National Congress and do nothing?
Any Inquiry into the attempted coup should also seek to find out why the NAR Government which had been placed on alert by a newspaper article published in April, 1990, a mere three months earlier, that a container loaded with illegal arms and ammunition had been offloaded, had done nothing? Had prompt and decisive action been taken there would have been no coup attempt.
In addition, why did the United States authorities which would later admit to being aware that the container of arms and ammunition had been shipped from the US, had not sought to intercept it?
Why was action not taken by the Customs and Excise Department, following on the newspaper expose` of the shipment, to find out who was the senior Customs officer, who not only arranged for the container to be landed and taken from the port of entry, but, reportedly, personally supervised its unstuffing?
Had effective action been taken and early, the attempted coup would never have taken place and a great deal of the hurt and emotional suffering would never have taken place. Additionally, what was particularly ironic was that the majority of the weapons which had been shipped to Trinidad and Tobago in the container turned out to be worthless and could not be used.
Is the People’s Partnership Government which, incidentally, includes the UNC, going to hold an Inquiry or is it going to plead that memories of those stormy awful days would have faded? Will the Administration which swept into political power, following on the May 24 General Election, preaching the mantra of change going to follow the example of the rest — do nothing and say nothing?
Admittedly, many old emotional wounds would be re-opened, but it is necessary, if only for future peace of mind to unearth those who shipped the container filled with arms and ammunition; those who allowed it to be shipped and the Customs and Excise officer, who, knowingly, had the container unstuffed at a secret location, inter alios (among other people).
The People’s Partnership is morally obligated to get at the truth and should not abdicate its responsibility in the same manner that the several administrations have abdicated theirs. While the Jamaat al Muslimeen remain etched in the minds of most Trinidadians and Tobagonians as the principals of the July 20, 1990 drama, and rightly so, the nation is entitled to be made aware of who were the other main players.
It still hurts that although something could have been done to forestall the coup attempt that nothing was. Clearly, it would have been possible after the newspaper article was published to have had the relevant Customs officer questioned to find out who took delivery of the arms and ammunition when it was unstuffed. Also, there would have been persons at the port who would have recalled seeing the container and even perhaps the number of the vehicle which transported it away from the port of entry. Or did some clever person decide that it was not the right thing to do to act on newspaper articles.
Several Members of the House of Representatives who were attending a meeting of Parliament at the time, including Cabinet and other Ministers, suffered, physically and emotionally, when insurgents burst into the Red House and throughout the ordeal which followed. Those who were there on that fateful day and the six-day period which saw them as virtual prisoners will, undoubtedly, pause come July 27 and the 20th anniversary to reflect on the awfulness of their horrific experience. Each will have a story to tell, indeed many stories.
Out of the hurt of that utterly sad moment in our country’s history was the defiant cry of one man, then Prime Minister, former President ANR Robinson. Robinson, rather than order his troops marshalled outside the Red House to cease firing, as had been demanded of him, instead ordered them to “Attack with full force!”
A full Inquiry into what transpired — is all that is required for the last chapter of this drama to be written.