Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 31st 2014 Contents B12
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 31, 2014
Twice, the columnist Raoul Pantin has got in the
back of my taxi, travelling into Port-of-Spain.
On both occasions there was some major lawless-
ness in the news and, on both occasions, his opening
gambit was, "See everything what going on in this
country? It can be traced directly back to 1990."
In the nearly quarter of a century that has passed
since Abu Bakr s boys stormed the Red House, the
spectre of the attempted coup has, for that generation,
never gone away. It s one of those things, I ve noticed,
that barely goes a week without being mentioned.
And why would it go away? It s still there in every-
body s faces, clear as day.
Questions persist. Does Abu Bakr still control (or
could at least mobilise) a criminal empire, capable
of another coup attempt? Is he mid-rung, with
enough longevity and power to still obtain large con-
struction contracts for public projects? Or is he a
"retired" smooth-talker with the charm, charisma,
rousing voice and steely gaze of somebody totally
unafraid of reprisals, despite his past actions?
I saw his ability to charm, first-hand, a month
after I arrived in Trinidad.
To mark the 23rd anniversary of the coup, his
Jamaat al Muslimeen, 100 strong, marched from
Woodford Square, down Frederick Street, chanting
"There is only one God, Allah." The march ended at
the Waterfront Towers and he leant against a wall
sheltering from the rain that had begun falling on
the parade as it had gone along the Brian Lara Prom-
The members of the media appeared nervous to
approach so, in my best cockney, I asked him what
my editor had told me to ask: would he testify at
the commission of enquiry?
"How much are they paying the chairman of the
enquiry?" he replied.
"If they pay me the same, then I ll testify." Soon
the cameras and tape recorders were gathered round,
pressed in his face.
I was amazed---with 24 people having died in the
coup, an essentially terrorist act---that they should
brazenly commemorate the act.
As I hurried along beside the marchers I had spotted
Ambassador Mervyn Assam, a man who recognises
my face if not necessarily my name.
He acknowledged me, cheerful as ever, so I scuttled
over and asked what he thought of the day s events.
"If they want to march, let them march," he said,
Sometimes, in Trinidad, it s easier to let criminals
off. Sometimes Trinidad even elects criminals into
government, so I m told. Abu Bakr says that s why
he staged the coup d etat. The government-negotiated,
legally-upheld amnesty paints its own picture.
Pantin argues that in a Western democracy the
coup would have ended with the army shooting the
Reading Pantin s Days of Wrath on the beach one
day, I put it down to for a second and a wave came
and drenched it.
"It s still readable," I persuaded the book s lender,
our very own editor-in-chief, although I had to admit
that Pantin s signature---for it had been a signed
copy---had been smudged into illegibility.
That the 24th anniversary of 1990 fell so close to
Eid this week highlighted the evident plurality of
Religion and criminal gangs are odd bedfellows in
most religions but, in Islam, such is its diversity,
devout worshippers and secular Muslims fall under
the same umbrella as political activists and even
armed militant organisations intent on violently
enforcing Islamic socio-cultural and religious beliefs.
No other culture or religion has seen such infighting
since the days of the Vikings and their Norse gods.
Alawite and Shia government troops in Syria fight
Sunnis and Islamic jihad fighters from elsewhere,
Hamas in Palestine, committed to opposing Zion-
ism, is at odds with its own Palestinian Authority
which accepts Israel as a Jewish state.
But is Bakr (a former police officer) really
can one be both, I often wonder? God, if
he or she exists, does not wish death or
In as much as the Jamaat consists of black
converts, would take up arms and is reli-
giously syncretic, it is similar to the Nation
of Islam; religion as accompaniment to a
The fact that Bakr is able to do and say
what he pleases appears to be symptomatic
of the state of Trinidadian law and order.
Promisingly, his most recent message was
one of peace.
"I don t even own a gun," he said, "I have
a heart filled with love."
This came just days after he had promised
"appropriate action" against the three high-
est security officials in the land, over arrests
of his men at Carapo mosque.
Bakr believes he has more control over
the crime rate than police do and says that
he will "even co-operate with the police."
Abu too sweet, yes.
In the same Guardian interview he called
Gary Griffith a "clown." Which begs the
question, Abu for Minister of National Secu-
Until next week, Inshallah.
Strange dogs were barking
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