President Paula-Mae Weekes has renewed her call for a more permanent memorial of the 1990 attempted coup.
Her Excellency made the call in her special Message issued concerning the 31st Anniversary of the events of 27th July 2021, in which she points out that this country must do its utmost to ensure such an event never occurs again.
She said more must be done apart from wreath-laying ceremonies, to ensure the people of Trinidad and Tobago never forget this “dark chapter” of this country’s history.
The following is the full text of Her Excellency’s message in observance of the 1990 attempted coup:
On 27th July 1990, a group of heavily armed insurrectionists stormed its way into the seat of government and attempted to take for themselves the reins of power. The confusion of many citizens, who initially assumed the events unfolding live on television were part of a performance, soon turned into disbelief, which gave way to horror as the nation’s capital burned and the grim reality of a six-day siege set in. In the harrowing aftermath, twenty-four citizens were dead, countless people were physically, psychologically and emotionally scarred and hundreds of millions of dollars in property had gone up in smoke.
As a member of parliament, I will later today lay a wreath in remembrance of those who perished during the attempted coup d’état, as well as those forgotten victims who lost their businesses, sense of normalcy, dignity and peace of mind. Thirty-one years have elapsed, but the painful memories of the dreadful events remain seared in the minds of those who were front row witnesses and casualties of one of the most brazen and senseless assaults in the history of our nation’s democracy.
It is important to note, however, that while the shocking images of those six days will not be easily forgotten by those alive at the time, there will soon be an entire generation of people with little or no awareness or connection to the events of 1990. Many young people today have never fully understood nor appreciated the impact of those events on the landscape and trajectory of the nation.
Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. If we are to learn from our history we must preserve and transmit it in a form that is meaningful, memorable, unambiguous and potent.
In 2018, I called for a ‘proper and fitting annual national observance’ to commemorate the attempted coup and today I renew that appeal. While wreath laying pays tribute to the dead, this dark chapter of our history merits a permanent memorial that would capture the horror and chaos of those six days with appropriate images, testimonials and historical information. Such a museum-quality display would reliably impart to present and future generations, the events, causes and consequences of the attempted coup d’état.
This commemoration would also help to avoid the romanticization of those events and paint them for what they were—an unjustified and heinous grab for power which robbed the innocent of their lives, rights, peace, and livelihoods.
We must pay heed to the lessons of the past and honour the memories and experiences of those who died and suffered great loss. Among those who perished in the violence: Mr. Leo des Vignes, Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central; SRP Solomon McLeod; ASP Roger George; Estate Constable Malcolm Basanta; George Francis; Arthur Guiseppi; Helen Lavia; Lorraine Caballero and Mervyn Teague.
The distressing and brutal scenes of July 27, 1990, undermined the very foundations of our country’s democracy and sense of sovereignty. Lest we forget, difficult conversations must take place and necessary steps be taken to ensure that we never again suffer such an egregious and audacious violation of our national security and freedoms.