Muslim leader finally apologises for failed 1990 coup

Muslim leader finally apologises for failed 1990 coup

Saturday, July 18, 2020

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) —Two weeks before Trinidad and Tobago observe the 30th anniversary of the failed coup against the then Government of Prime Minister ANR Robinson, the man who led the insurrection, has finally apologised to the population.

But Yasin Abu Bakr, 79, the leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, says he also wants to “heal the nation and foster national consensus.

“For all the pain I caused the nation I am sorry. Now it is time for closure,” he said.

Bakr's change of heart is contained in an affidavit filed in support of his challenge of a decision to pursue a criminal complaint against him after he refused to answer a summons to testify before a Commission of Inquiry into the 1990 attempted coup.

On July 27, 1990, more than 100 members of an Islamist radical group, Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, stormed Parliament.

Everyone inside, including Robinson, was held hostage for several days, as violence and looting erupted in the capital.

The storming of Parliament and the State-owned television station, resulted in a state of emergency being imposed on July 28. By the time the rebellion ended, much of Port of Spain had been reduced to a smouldering heap of rubble and destruction.

At least 24 people, including the government legislator, Leo Des Vignes, died during the insurrection.

In his affidavit, Bakr outlined three reasons for the failed coup.

He said that it was as a result of the extra-legal, arbitrary and/or summary executions by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), a corrupt government and ripe conditions of social unrest.

“As a country, we must guard against all three categories individually and collectively. Also, please consider that I am very much concerned that there may be killer gangs in existence in the TT Police Service masquerading as TTPS officers. That also may have been a reason for my non-attendance at the commission. A witness in fear of the TTPS,” Bakr said in his lawsuit in which he named Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard as the defendant.

On March 14, 2014, the then Kamla Persad Bissessar Government, which had set up the Commission of Inquiry, received a copy of the report that probed the events that led to the 1990 attempt. The commission's report had earlier been presented to then President Anthony Carmona and the Government had promised that it would be laid in Parliament.

Bakr said Trinidad and Tobago spent millions of dollars enquiring into the events of 1990, and he believes it is now necessary for him to provide answers.

“By way of this affidavit, I shall answer. I believe that it is necessary at this stage,” he said, adding “I hope you understand my rationale behind the 1990 events.”

Bakr, who describes himself in the legal document as a “lion, a smart lion” acknowledged that it is “now… my time to speak”.

He said that there was “a series of events culminating in the coup d'état on July 27, 1990”, and in the affidavit, describes Gaspard as a “good man” who should not remain silent.

The private summons, filed by the secretary to the commission, is now before the magistrates' court and an in-person case management hearing is set for July 20 to set a date for the hearing of the matter.

Last week, Bakr's attorneys filed a judicial review application, which will be heard by Justice Nadia Kangaloo at a virtual hearing.

Bakr is seeking a declaration that the continuation of the prosecution of him is irrational and tantamount to an abuse of process. He wants an order to stay the matter in the magistrates' court.

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