PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 8, CMC – A Commission of Inquiry probing the events that led to bthe unsuccessful 1990 coup against the Trinidad and Tobago of Prime Minister ANR Robinson has been told that the leader of the radical Muslim group should have been tried by a military tribunal.
Professor Ramesh Deosaran, a criminologist, told the five-member Commission chaired by prominent Caribbean jurist Sir David Simmons that Yasin Abu Bakr, who led more than 100 men in the failed attempt at overthrowing the government on July 27, 1990, should have been taken tried before a military tribunal.
“A better institutional arrangement to hear such cases should have been a military tribunal,” Deosaran said, adding “my suggestion is that for matters or treason, insurrection and terrorism, we should have a separate judicial arrangement.
“For example by having a military tribunal, you will hear evidence and due process will still be maintained but the expeditiousness and decisiveness on both sides will be more properly handled rather than the present system of justice,” he said.
At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed during the six day insurrection that ended on August 1. Bakr and his members of his Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen group were tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.
However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.
The 23 month-old Kamla Persad Bissessar led People’s Partnership coalition established the Commission after acknowledging that for several years calls have been made “by a generous percentage of our population for such an investigation”.
She said the inquiry was necessary “to bring finality to this matter” and to deal with the fact “that there were varying degrees and categories of trauma experienced by citizens in different institutions directly and indirectly”.
A number of people, including Robinson and others who were held hostage, have already testified before the Commission
Deosaran told the Commission on Monday that he doubted an “identical occurrence” like 1990 would recur but called on the State to “execute appropriate surveillance” on the Muslim group and warned law enforcement authorities here that current rumblings between employers and trade unions as well as class conflicts are a “time bomb” waiting to explode.
“I think the resentment (from 1990) still exists. I am issuing a warning to the authorities to take care it does not get out of hand. “There is a growing resentment by the working class. There is an understream of issues that seem to pose a threat to the established order.
“We are almost plagued with a timebomb. Ethnicity, combined with working-class issues, is a very volatile situation related to 1990,”Deosaran said noting also there had been no creation of a productive youth population from the schools and the propensity for revolt and civil disorder was increasing.
“I am not being an alarmist but I am cautioning the Government that a new mode of governance is needed. The business class also needs to be more sensitive if we are to prevent anything similar to 1990.”