legacy of July 27, 1990
its echoes roll on, ever more muted, into the future, the
1990 attempted coup continues to distinguish two
kinds of Trinidad and Tobago people.
Type One citizens continue to regard the July 27, 1990, events
as unfortunate, and a deservingly forgettable
To the others, the events mark an epochal turning point, from
which eye-opening lessons should be drawn about the nature
of this country, and its negative possibilities.
Long after the smoke died, rubble cleared and the bodies removed
and counted, what remained was the emergence of black Muslim
prelates into a kind of mainstream respectability.
A news story last week reported Salim Muwakil, a Jamaat-al-Muslimeen
wazir in 1990, seeking to make peace between gangs
in eastside Port-of-Spain.
Surviving Muslimeen rankers are older and presumably more
prudent today, when the gunslinging and the gangleading must
have passed into younger hands.
Its the Mucurapo jamaat, however, that demonstrated
how private forces could set themselves up and make their
way by devising organisation and gaining resources conducive
to their aims.
In 1990, everything happened literally under the noses of
the security forces. The T&T Regiment soldiers encamped
at Mucurapo and the Muslimeen irregulars peered at one another
Each side reassured itself it knew what the other was up to.
The blitzkrieg at Police Headquarters, at the Red House and
elsewhere eventually confirmed which side was the better-informed.
Maybe the outcome was too serious to laugh about. But the
performance of the police could have been rendered as comedy.
Complacent or distracted, they had failed to notice as the
Muslimeen raised, trained and equipped an armed force that,
as its first military objective, lethally targeted Police
That brilliant fact remains available for analysis, deduction
In the organisation and disposition of violence, a private
enterprise had proved audaciously efficient in marshalling
information and organisation for addressing means to ends.
Amid pervasive Trini slacknesses, efficiencies,
it has been proved, are possible of achievement. But the achievement
is more likely in the private than in the public sphere.
By last week, downtown Port-of-Spain streets had become recognised
as a setting for murders.
On Wednesday evening, a gunman shot Marlon Gocking point-blank
in the head, ran east on Queen Street, home free.
How could this happen?
Bystanders asked this aloud, noticing how slow off the mark
police and soldiers had been in attempting pursuit of the
law enforcement authorities should be very concerned about
the contempt that is being shown to them and the wider society,
Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants
Association, said of the killing.
The authorities, if not yet the people, used to being held
in contempt, are comfortable in the embrace of low self-esteem.
If capacity has expanded, its to the benefit only of
those working against the authorities.
For purposes of intelligence, the place is more properly-mapped,
its potential for activity better explored by the private
than by the public sector.
Judging from what they know of the escape routes and the hideouts,
the police, soldiers and Sautt could well constitute an occupation
force struggling for a foothold in unfamiliar territory.
The media cover crime not by reference to what the police
are doing, but what they are saying.
a gang whose members bear trademark tattoos, now enjoys a
kind of brand legitimacy in reportage that was once associated
with, say, the Anti-Kidnapping Squad.
The rest of us are impressed only by how much we dont
know about what is going on.
It proved amazingly easy, last Sunday, to induce a respected
Morvant Justice of the Peace into entering a strange car with
strange people, and to make him disappear.
The Morvant JP, it ominously turned out, was due to testify
for the State in a murder trial.
Justice Anthony Carmona, on February 22, gave voice to exasperation
as he watched a murder prosecution collapse in his court.
One prosecution witness had been killed; the other claimed
to have been intimidated against testifying.
As two alleged killers walked free, he denounced the Unemployment
Relief Programme as a hotbed of crime, and described delusional
officials as being in a state of denial.
For once, Information Minister Neil Parsanlal was without
his supply of pompous words to defend the executive.
Asked to respond to Justice Carmona, the minister told the
Guardian he did not understand how the matter related to him.
Officials lack even credible rhetorical answer to critical
aggression against the rule of law.
After yet another state witness had been killed, Police Commissioner
Trevor Paul actually defended the justice protection
programme, even though its patently seen as failing
to keep witnesses alive.
In one courtroom episode last week, it appeared Murphys
law had easily trumped criminal law; whatever could go wrong
As a bag allegedly belonging to a man charged with drug possession
for trafficking was emptied before the jury, a Guyanese passport
fell to the floor.
Court proceedings froze when the name on the passport proved
to be that of someone other than the man who had been charged
with attempting to smuggle cocaine through Piarco, and who
had denied ownership of the bag.
prosecution frantically sought further instructions from the
DPPs office, Newsday reported.
The cause of criminal justice was crying out for such change
as would provide more efficiency in discharging matters, all
the way from the ostensible crime scene to the court.
Over hours, dead bodies remain untouchable, even on the floor
of a bank branch, before district medical officers show up,
to officially pronounce the obvious, and authorise removal.
In the sad state of T&T crime and justice, what appears
consistently and conspicuously to work are those provisions
and those conditions that tend to serve the interests of the