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Coup hostages want Day of Remembrance for July 27, 1990

By JANELLE DE SOUZA Sunday, July 27 2014

Disappointed, amazed and “vex” are how some persons who were held hostage in the July 27, 1990 coup attempt described their feelings about Government’s lack of action on the establishment of a day of remembrance in honour of those who died during the attempted overthrowing of the Government 24 years ago.

Joseph Toney said while the Government was to be commended for having a Commission of Enquiry into the attempted coup, he was “sorely disappointed” that the recommendations of the report were seemingly being ignored.

The report, dated March 2014, stated, “The Commission recommends that 27 July should be commemorated as a Day of National Significance, not a holiday, but a time for reflection. The media and religious organisations should be encouraged to reflect the significance of the day in appropriate ways... An impressive monument should be erected near to the Red House on which the names of those who died are inscribed.”

“I find it amazing that we seem to empathise with Nelson Mandela, holding a week of activities, which is a good thing; we rush to the US Embassy on September 11 to empathise with Americans for what they went through in 2001; but none of the governing authorities empathise with those who suffered and died in our own country on July 1990,” he said.

Toney praised Wendell Eversley for his efforts to draw the Government’s attention to the fact that the recommendations need to be implemented “if there is to be complete healing” with respect to the events of the coup.

Eversley has been the most vocal on the matter as he staged seven days of protest from Monday to today, when he would be walking from the Arima Dial at 6 am to the Eternal Flame at the Red House in Port-of-Spain in order to lay a wreath at 6pm.

Eversley said he hoped his action would move Government to implement Chapters 11 and 12 of the Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the July 1990 attempted coup. He however, was mostly concerned about the security of the country and called for the recommendations in Chapter 12 regarding the coordination of an effective response by “agencies responsible for defence, law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, the emergency services, the social services, the diplomatic corps, and the media in the event of a future occurrence of an attempted coup d’etat or other acts of treason, terrorism or insurrection.”

He pointed to the seeming threat recently made by leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr. On Tuesday, 18 persons were detained after police raided the Carapo mosque just after prayers were completed. Police sources yesterday said the detainees were interrogated in connection with the kidnapping of two Latin American nationals on March 5. The men, including two women, were released on Friday. No charge was laid against any of them.

However, hours after the raid, Abu Bakr in a radio interview, singling out National Security Minister Gary Griffith and Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said, “I am saying that if you continue this transgression against us we will respond appropriately. End of talk!”

Eversley said while the top officials dismissed Abu Bakr’s statements, “the smallest man could see that it’s a threat that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Eversley called on all hostages who were in Parliament, Radio Trinidad, and the Trinidad and Tobago Television station at the time, those who lost family and friends, as well as the general public to join him at the Eternal Flame today at 6pm to light a candle for all those who lost their lives during the coup.

Jennifer Johnson, who was Sports Minister at the time of the coup, said she would be having a “quiet day of reflection,” as she usually did on July 27, as there was nothing official to attend. She too thought it “unbelievable” and “deplorable” that there was no recognition by the State for those of the protective forces involved, as well as those who suffered and died.

“Countries that endured assaults in their democracy don’t just forget it, they remember. But only the State can do that. It sends a message to people that they value democracy and the rule of law,” she said.

“It’s really an affront to citizens that (the persons responsible for the coup) can have full reign of the air waves four days before the 24th anniversary,” she added, referring to Abu Bakr’s statements on the radio.

Speaking to the Sunday Newsday, Rawle Raphael too expressed his disappointment that “nothing” came out of the Commission of Enquiry. He said, up to one week ago, he wrote to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar reminding her of her assurances that the recommendations would be implemented.

“Every day I say a prayer for those who suffered and died. My friend, Leo des Vignes, got killed in that coup. I slept in his blood for the whole night. I am still suffering from the trauma of it all. People don’t understand what we went through,” he said.

Raphael, a former government minister, was the only person to ask for compensation, to the tune of $3.5 million.

He says he intends to visit the Eternal Flame in order to light a candle in memory of, and to honour those who died during the insurrection.

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