Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dookeran: Use coup report to enhance lives

Acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran said yesterday that he hoped that the Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 attempted  coup would to be used to enhance “our democratic way of life”.

Dookeran said he had not yet read the voluminous report which was tabled in the House of Representatives last Friday. 

Former minister Joseph Toney, one of the hostages held in the Red House during the coup attempt,  said he had read Chapter 11 of the Report which recommends very strongly that the victims of the coup be compensated for the injuries and traumatic experiences that they went through and that those who performed admirably under dangerous circumstances be recognised  for having performed patriotic duties. 

Toney said he was not sure whether there would be a debate on the report but he hoped that all Parliamentarians would abide with the recommendations. He said the recommendation that a small unit be set up to ensure that the compensation and awards be given, should be “attended to quickly so that we can have closure on all these issues”. 

Noting that several witnesses, including Clive Nunez suggested that Muslimeen apologise, Toney said it was not too far for the Muslimeen to do the decent thing. He said most of the citizens of this country had come to the conclusion that the events of July 27 were senseless and not in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago. 

He said the Muslimeen should walk the talk and demonstrate to the national community that they are truly sorry, are seeking reconciliation with the national community and genuinely want closure. 

“The ball is now in their court,” Toney said.

Canon Knolly Clarke, who was called to Camp Ogden and spent days there and who entered the Red House twice during the most tense period in the hostage crisis and was responsible for defusing the situation when he brought the amnesty document, has been cited as one of those recommended for special medal of honour. 

Clarke said yesterday said he was merely doing his duty.  He said it was different from his normal religious duties because “it took me out of the sanctuary into a wider world to carry God’s message”. 

“A priest is a bridge builder and ...I feels good to know that your efforts were appreciated... I thank God for it. 

“In one sense I feel humbled, but in another sense I did my duty,” he said. He recalled that his family was alone in San Fernando during the time he was involved in the hostage crisis. He said some acolytes stayed with his family, sleeping with them in night while he was at Camp Ogden. 

“People criticised me and thought I was part of SOPO. That was not the thing, the thing was to try and heal with wounds. One person I feel sad about is Mr Robinson. He is not well and I continue to pray for him because he was one of the great heroes of that time. He stood out,” Clarke said.

He said he felt it was important for the Muslimeen to apologise to the country. He noted however that the Muslimeen still felt aggrieved over the land issue, which remained an outstanding situation. 

Gloria Henry said she would be happy to have compensation for victims and hostages. But she said she was still to read the report, but one of the things which she hoped the Report addressed was the issue of how the whole ethos of the country changed after the coup attempt.  

She said Magistrate Hislop during his testimony noted that after 1990 the criminal element became emboldened. 

“We need to take back the country from that element and I don’t know if there is anything in the Report that would give us the opportunity to fix this country,” he said. 

Henry said she saw “that man” (Yasin Abu Bakr) on TV last (Sunday) night and was appalled by his “arrogant stance” of “well I wrote that book so I don’t need to read what is in the report”.