Tuesday 27 October, 2020

President slams Abu Bakr in coup anniversary speech

President Paula-Mae Weeks has commended religious leaders who have called for a day of prayer to mark the 30th anniversary of the attempted coup that shook the country on July 27, 1990.

However, she took the opportunity to issue a call to action, urging citizens to be more patriotic and demanding that security forces be strengthened to prevent a similar insurgence in future.

“It is heartening to see our religious leaders call for a day of prayer to commemorate this dark chapter of our nation’s history and to show gratitude for the democracy we enjoy today. Our prayers must however be accompanied by deliberate steps to entrench respect and value for democracy, eternal vigilance and the empowering of our security forces to withstand any attempt at a repeat.”

Recalling what she described as a frightening time in Trinidad and Tobago’s history, the President expressed concern that an unequivocal apology may never be obtained from Yasin Abu Bakr -- the leader of the Jamaat al-Muslimeen that shot its way into the Parliament and waged a six-day campaign to overthrow the Government.

She said the victims of the attack deserve it and lamented the lack of a formal commemoration of the incident as advised in the 2014 Commission of Inquiry report.

“In a recent affidavit sworn by Yasin Abu Bakr and incidentally connected to the very Commission of Enquiry, he averred ‘For all the pain I caused the nation I am sorry. Now it is time for closure.’ Some thought that his words amounted to an apology and were a welcome, though belated step towards reconciliation. Abu Bakr later strongly denied that he had ever apologised to the nation for 1990. It is an affront to the victims and the country as a whole that in his affidavit, Abu Bakr attempted to determine the ‘when’ for closure, especially having abjured any remorse or regret for the attempted coup d’état and the consequent events.”

According to the President, the Commission of Inquiry set up in 2010 provided some chronology of the events but, without the testimony of the principal, did not offer the full understanding that the nation and, in particular, the victims rightly deserve.

“It is disappointing to note that there is still no official commemoration of the attempted coup d’état. I suspect that it is this very lack of attention that has us in the shameful position of not being able to name all 24 of our citizens acknowledged to have died as a result of the insurrection.”

She went on to state that it is citizens’ duty to honour and keep the memories of those killed in the attempted coup alive paying tribute to Leo des Vignes, Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central; SRP Solomon McLeod; ASP Roger George; Estate Constable Malcolm Basanta; George Francis; Arthur Guiseppi; Helen Lavia; Lorraine Caballero and Mervyn Teague.

“Say their names aloud so that they are memorialised.”

“I urge citizens to eschew all forms of violence and renew their commitment to the democratic principles that we hold dear to ensure that the deaths of our fellow countrymen were not in vain. July 27 is an annual opportunity to be reminded of the value of our democratic freedoms and the need to ensure that such an egregious violation of our citizens’ rights and dignity can never again befall our nation.”

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