Inquiry continues in T&T
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – A Commission of Inquiry probing the circumstances surrounding the July 27, 1990 attempted coup by a radical Muslim group, re-convened today with one witness indicating that the issue of making Trinidad and Tobago an Islamic state had been raised casually by one of the leaders of the attempted coup.
Former works minister, John Humphrey, told the five-member Commission chaired by prominent Barbadian jurist, Sir David Simmons that the issue had been raised “casually” by Bilal Abdullah, who led one section of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen group in its coordinated attack on the Parliament and the state-owned Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) on that fateful day.
Humphrey, who along with former prime minister ANR Robinson and a number of other legislators were held hostage in the Parliament building, said that during discussions with Abdullah, the Muslimeen member had wondered whether or not an Islamic state could have been established here.
He told the Commission that he had brushed aside Abdullah’s concerns by telling him that Muslims were about six to seven per cent of the total population and “no way a minority in any society could develop an Islamic state”.
Humphrey said that Abdullah was the leader of the group in the Parliament who told his followers that the hostage should be executed “if a light flicker (in the building), adding they were not to wait for any other order.
The group’s leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, who has in the past publicly indicated a willingness to testify before any commission, led more than 100 members in storming the Parliament and the lone television station in a coordinated attack hoping to overthrow the Robinson administration.
At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed during the six day insurrection that ended on August 1. Bakr and his men were tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.
However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.
The nine-month-old Kamla Persad Bissessar led People’s Partnership coalition established the Commission after acknowledging that for several years calls have been made “by a generous percentage of our population for such an investigation”.
She said the inquiry was necessary “to bring finality to this matter” and to deal with the fact “that there were varying degrees and categories of trauma experienced by citizens in different institutions directly and indirectly”. (CMC)