Rumours of a coup against the Government of Trinidad and Tobago smoked out the capital city yesterday afternoon, leading to many businesses closing early and citizens hurrying home out of fear.
Facebook, Twitter and several other social media sites “blew up” throughout the day, spreading rumours of criminal activities and even “shootouts” taking place with police officers in Port of Spain. Mass text messages were being circulated warning people to stay home after 7 p.m.
These rumours were then further fuelled by a series of events, including the fact that two mosques in the Port of Spain and St James areas had Juma’h prayers which lasted much longer than they traditionally would.
Also heightening the rumours was the fact that several businesses in Port of Spain, including the Ministry of Legal Affairs, closed early, which in turn led to a traffic gridlock out of Port of Spain, as commuters rushed home unsure of what exactly was going on.
The increased presence of police officers throughout the capital city and the use of National Security helicopters flying over Port of Spain was also observed, further adding to fears.
But were these rumours justified?
Although Minister of National Security Gary Griffith yesterday dispelled the notion of a coup in his talks with the media, senior intelligence sources told CCN yesterday that despite the “crowd control” being spun by the Government and police officials, there was indeed information the police had received a threat of a coup that was real.
Reliable sources told CCN the Cyber Crime Unit of the T&T Police Service had intercepted a digital message earlier in the day which led them to believe that discussions on a coup were being held by certain members of society, with the possible intent of bringing these discussions into fruitful action as early as last night.
Sources also said the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit and the Police Service had been placed on full alert yesterday morning. Earlier this week, TV6 ran a story raising questions of an impending coup, but this was denied by DCP Glenn Hackett.
Among those who dispelled the rumours yesterday was Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications Vasant Bharath. The minister made an official statement in the afternoon to advise there was no coup attempt against the Government.
“These malicious rumours of a coup are totally rejected and are nothing more than a theatrical attempt to create panic and alarm. There is absolutely no truth nor evidence of any security threat or breach and members of the public are assured that normal conditions prevail in the city and across the nation.
“In consultation with the Ministry of National Security, I wish to advise that the National Operations Centre has explored all avenues of information-gathering and spoken to all law-enforcement agencies and all intelligence agencies and there is no, I repeat, no information that corroborates this rumour.
“This is the second rumour of this nature that has surfaced in the last week and seems to be part of an orchestrated campaign of mischief aimed at disturbing the public peace. The Ministry of National Security will continue to align all resources to ensure the safety and security of the State and its citizens,” Bharath said.
—with reporting by Mark Bassant