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Act of revenge by Jamaat—Deosaran
The Jamaat al Muslimeen’s attempted overthrow of the Government in 1990 was a spontaneous act of revenge and rage and they had no plan when they stormed the Parliament. Killing parliamentarians and distressing the whole country was the Jamaat’s way of taking revenge for perceived injustices done to the group.
This view was expressed by social scientist Prof Ramesh Deosaran, as he gave evidence yesterday in the Commission of Enquiry into the July 27, 1990 uprising. Deosaran is the author of a book on the insurrection which he wrote in 1993—A Society Under Siege, A Study of Political Confusion and Legal Mysticism.
The book has an interview he did with insurrection and Jamaat leader, Yasin Abu Bakr. Deosaran dispelled the general consensus by previous witnesses that the Muslimeen had been preparing for the coup d’etat several years before the event. “They had no plan. It was very spontaneous. It was more an act of seeking revenge, and rage.
“Looking at it now, it’s almost irrational,” he said. Deosaran said if the insurrection was “arranged” after the police and army set up a base near the Jamaat’s compound at 1 Mucurapo Road, one month before, that would not be a revolution. He said the Jamaat would have had a parallel army in place, a president-in-waiting and others to hold state offices, which they did not have.
“They went in there (Parliament) without a plan and it boomeranged in the way it did,” he added. Deosaran said the Muslimeen had no plan beyond the use of guns and the taking over of Trinidad & Tobago Television (TTT), the country’s lone television station at the time, Trinidad Broadcasting Co, a radio station, and Parliament.
He said one can argue that the Jamaat’s stockpiling of arms and ammunition was not to attack the Government, but to stave off an attack from the police. He elicited an apparent response of surprise from commission chairman, Sir David Simmons, who informed Deosaran that an impeccable source, via documentary evidence, said since February 1987, Bakr was dissatisfied with the NAR government.
Simmons said for assisting the NAR in the 1986 general election, Bakr was promised a senatorial appointment, the settlement of the Jamaat’s land issue, funding for religious projects and contracts to operate canteens. By 1990, none of those promises were fulfilled.
Deosaran said, in his mind, the attempted coup had its genesis in the Jamaat’ s land issue. He blamed successive political administrations for “perpetuating the dispute” by not dealing with it resolutely and efficiently. He said the Jamaat occupied the portion of state land at Mucurapo in 1983 which was given to the Islamic Missionaries Guild in 1969.
He added that the construction and expansion of buildings on the land led to the fear that the Jamaat was building an empire and a police and army base was set up (by the National Alliance for Reconstruction government) near the compound to prevent further encroaching on state land.
Deosaran said Bakr filed a motion in court seeking to have the army/police unit removed. The court’s delay in hearing the matter “disturbed Bakr quite a lot,” Deosaran said. In the meantime, law enforcement seemed to be moving into action against him, he added.
The professor was also very cautious about attributing blame to the Jamaat uprising for the subsequent increase in crime in the country. He said it was the lack of accountability, the “first cousin of corruption,” from public institutions that caused the increase in crime.
He was not sure, either, that when Bakr announced on TTT shortly after the insurrection that there should be no looting that it was a code to citizens to start looting. Looting has been shown to be a result of crowd behaviour, he said. Underground norms of behaviour, like squatting, for instance, are encouraged by political confusion, he added.
He said one set of politicians would disapprove of it while another would intervene in approval. Deosaran said what was needed was a new breed of politicians who would not use deviant elements in society for political gain. He said if society had to rise to a higher level of civilisation, politicians needed to make a brave effort to resist corruption and face the fire they would come under.
“What you have described for us there is a Herculean, if not utopian, task,” commission lead counsel Avory Sinanan said.
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