Rumours of a coup d’etat are a sign citizens are losing faith and confidence in the security situation in the country, Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud said yesterday.
Aboud said he first received a text message around 3.30 p.m. alerting him to the situation. Since then, he said he heard at least three versions of the rumour.
“We did hear it. We did have a couple of frantic phone calls. There were a few versions of the rumour.
“In one version, a policeman had been shot; another, there had been open gunfire between the police and a gang of thieves on lower Independence Square; and the final version was that there was a coup attempt in the city and the police had cordoned off Port of Spain. These three versions circulated in quick time, none true as far as we can tell from our checks,” Aboud said.
He said the rumours did cause disquiet among citizens, coming on the heels of the huge fire in the Beetham Landfill blanketing the city in thick, noxious smog earlier this year, events in the last several days after the assassination of senior counsel Dana Seetahal and then National Security Minister Gary Griffith’s proclamation the country’s threat level had been raised to amber.
“People in the country are nervous. I myself came down to the street to check and had to make an effort to calm some people who called. It occurred to me that the public is losing faith and confidence in the security situation in country. The rumour was pervasive. I don’t know from where it emanated, but in my mind there is a sense of unease about the security situation in the county,” he said.
He said what was needed to begin the restoration of faith in the capabilities of the protective services was not the purchase of armoured vehicles or drones, but rather hard work from the security personnel and remuneration, promotions and rewards for successes.
“There needs to be a performance incentive built into the work programme for officers in the protective services. Something has to be done to restore public confidence and despite the best intentions of (Griffith), I do not believe that (armoured vehicles, drones and other expenditure items) it is giving comfort and confidence to an anxious public.
“Old-fashioned hard work is required and those officers who do the hard work should be rewarded and that will build a culture of excellence that will improve public confidence and remove the foolish rumour-mongering,” he said.
Aboud did note there had been similarities between these rumours and July 27, 1990, when the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen attempted a coup, seizing Parliament.
“The two events occurred on a Friday afternoon and also had the similarities of chatter and clamouring taking place by certain noisy individuals in the country. But the difference is the streets are calm. Then it was panic in the streets and we could hear gunfire, but it’s calm. It’s a beautiful day in downtown,” he said.
“We certainly don’t believe that what has taken place in the aftermath of Ms Seetahal’s murder has done anything to restore that calm. There is no belief that that $3.5 million reward is going to beget results, (nor will) expensive vehicles. (I’m not) slamming or criticising anyone, but maybe some of the people making these pronouncements do not have the experience (to realise) that these announcements actually damage confidence because we have heard these announcements before,” he said.