That 1990 Attempted Coup

By George Alleyne
July 07, 2010 – newsday.co.tt

Abu BakrWith 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.

http://www.newsday.co.tt/commentary/0,123595.html

5 Responses to “That 1990 Attempted Coup”


  • An inquiry should be held to determine what factors affected the coup. It will lay to rest all the questions being asked. Inquiries give us understanding and exposes what may not have been known, however, sometimes parties do not want an inquiry because it will expose what they don’t want expose and that is their involvement or knowledge of the coup. The media must press for it.

  • This is one area where there need to be a toning down of personal poiltics and show a greater sense of desire to find the truth about our history. This should not be about PP/UNC/COP/PNM/NAR or whatever else each and everyone of us align ourseles or may hae sympathies toward. The incident marked a significant point that was engineered by one man but whose rumblings suggest that there may be other players who hijacked our duly elected government, coomitting chaos and wide spread anxiety amongst the population. We as a nation has been wounded and traumatised by the violent and unlawful acts of those who wanted to seize power by the gun. We need to have an official written account of what transpired, the naming of key individuals, where and what went wrong in the logistics of that fateful day and the emotional legacy that we are left to face sine then. We must ask our present government to convene an inquiry, convince our media houses to focus on it and the national need to know.

  • Kian said,”we must ask our present government to convene an inquiry, convince our media houses to focus on it.” If the new government,decides to make this a priority , and request a comprehensive ,and thorough Commission of Enquiry , into what transpired, and eventually ascertain the culprits involved,I make a promise , that from today onward , never to ever make a negative remark against any of it’s members ,on a single subject over the term of their office.
    I however suspect that this is not a promise I’ll have to worry about breaking anytime soon kian, and you I am almost certain, can correctly guess as to why. As for the, cheerleading, complicit agents of the corporate 4th Estate? Your guess is as good as mine, as to what they are concerned with , much less focused on ,outside of the bottom line,my friend.
    I tell you however, that there is more than enough data to produce at lease 5000 thesis for our carefree UWI Social Science students ,over the next 40 years as to why the ex Cop Abu Bakr , was so successful in garnering the support he did , especially amongst the powerless, and disenfranchised ,prior to his attack on our nation.
    What is a more important question to ask kian , is what might be the final outcome for a society, that never choose to fully address what happens to a society like ours, that failed to address , and fully punish the secret , and open beneficiaries, of our own disgraceful,humiliating, and catastrophic ,’national Armageddon,’ on that fateful day in 1990, that has negatively impacted lives , and lowered the perceptions, of the world towards our country.
    Tell dem kian , that this problem has moved beyond politics, as you’ve so wisely made mention, for the seeds of lawlessness were planted in 1990 ,via the actions of young over zealous Rex ,and Raffique ,it germinated in 1990 ,by pro militant islamist Bakr, and today it has blossomed seemingly beyond repair, and no amount of foreign policing , or military experts, can put that gene back into that symbolic bottle. I have been wrong before, and perhaps this is either one of the occasions , or I am just another doom and gloom pessimist .
    “Equal rights ,and justice,” should not simply be a catch phrase song for a weed smoking Jamaican singer call Peter Tosh, but must be the goal for all citizens , led by serious leaders.
    Much luv for our country.

  • “what might be the final outcome for a society, that never choose to fully address what happens to a society like ours, that failed to address , and fully punish the secret , and open beneficiaries, of our own disgraceful,humiliating, and catastrophic ,’national Armageddon,’ on that fateful day in 1990, that has negatively impacted lives , and lowered the perceptions, of the world towards our country.” This is exactly why there need tobe persistence in addressing issues that are so important to our national conscience. As you alluded to Neal, a lot of names have been thrown around with all different kinds of scenarios but without any confirmation of action or circumstances. Without official investigation there will always be uneasiness about our internal safety and what will trigger the next usurption of national security. Our society is one that never indulges in addressing difficult issues. If it is unpleasant we hide it under the rug and hope it goes away. What caused the downfall of the last government was exactly that, it failed to address the buttom line of issues that concerned the population but felt that by not touching them they are safe in their positions. While there is a lot of reasons to feel that our requests to convene an official investigation into what occurred on that fatefull day in 1990 may not be heard by the current administration, we cannot lose hope that it may be possible. There is so much of who and what we are today that can be attributed to the negligence of ignoring the unpleasantness like vagrancy, domestic abuse, childre neglect, non observance of physical and social laws, lack of curtesy, ethics, respect, discipline, teenage pregnancy and yes sexual mores. In a world wide survey conducted conducted recently about online pornographic bad habits it was discovered that our little Trinidad was rated number ONE! followed only by Bangladesh (a far second). It is issues like this that tell us who we are and why certain subject matters need to be addressed by the authorities that be.

  • “This is exactly why there need tobe persistence in addressing issues that are so important to our national conscience.” You won’t hear much argument on that score from me cousin Kian , and most enlightening comment, on your part. Let me add , honesty ,non partisanship ,in the interest of change , and a new maturing, national spirit , must be the watch words as well.
    You see kian , our country is very unique in many respect. It is resource laden, multi racial from it’s inception as a nation, unfortunately underachieving with large pockets of economically depraved, openly democratic, fun loving , multi ethnic,globally savvy , and mostly literate, with two extremely passionate , competing majorities, that are still working out the long lasting pro slavery ,neo colonial kinks ,that were fostered on us by conniving Europeans. These all make for a contentious , and volatile present and future. We have done fairly well thus far my friend, although there is much work to be done still. I will never underestimate the grit, and capabilities of our people when motivated. They clamor for sound leadership, in an evolving economically volatile ,world. With love of this country by all, the sky is the limit.
    In ending ,let me say that 1990 ,is personal to me, and at times I tend to get a bit passionate for obvious reasons, that I won’t bore you with at this juncture, but which can be ascertained upon reading some of my older blogs.Hopefully we can get it right , so as to prevent similar degenerates from ever thinking of taking us down that partway again.
    Our people proved how sophisticated they were, during that historically tumultuous period, but as for the future, who knows? Our politicians obviously have much work to do,and would need every abled hands on deck- foreign and domestic where necessary. I would enjoy seeing our business community, civil society , and socially conscious nationals encourage to take on some of the burden, as we globalist have seen the tremendous results that can accrue , in more advance societies , where such is the norm.
    I am an optimist, how about you Kian?
    Continue to stay engaged , and committed to our Twin Island Republic my friend.

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