On July 27, 1990, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago bore witness to the violent and illegal attempted overthrow of our government by a group of individuals intent on seizing power. The siege lasted for five long days, a period which should remain always etched in our collective memory.
Our capital city, housing the seat of our democracy, was ravaged by fire and looting. In the aftermath, twenty-four citizens were dead with dozens more injured. Those who did not lose their lives lost their property and more importantly their sense of security.
The events of July 1990 ushered in a period of mourning and of great loss. Despite our reputation for having short memories, today we remember those who lost their lives in the chaos of 1990 including Mr. Leo des Vignes, Member of Parliament, Diego Martin, SRP Solomon McLeod, ASP Roger George, Estate Constable Malcolm Basanta, George Francis, Arthur Guiseppi, Helen Lavia, Lorraine Caballero and Mervyn Teague and the unknown, although direct, casualties caused by the traumatic events.
Many of our citizens continue to suffer daily as a result of the emotional wounds caused by what they would have experienced or witnessed. Let us also not forget the bereaved, who often may feel as though they have been left behind; those who lost a parent, a friend, a son or daughter.
For 28 years, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been reminded of the events of 1990 by the various church services, newspaper articles or interviews conducted on the subject but I have long wondered why there has never been an annual official remembrance. In the United States of America, every year the names of the 3000 people who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks are individually read out in honour of their memory. We do not do even that for our much fewer number of casualties.
I am convinced it is long past due that there be a proper and fitting annual national observance of the attempted coup d’état of 1990 to mark the significance of one of the darkest days in our history. Such a commemoration would demonstrate an awareness and recognition of the ordeal of those who suffered and died; show our appreciation for the members of our armed forces who intervened and risked their lives to ensure that the insurrection did not spread further; and serve as an annual reminder to remain vigilant in preserving our hard-won democracy.
As citizens of Trinidad and Tobago we must continue to reinforce our commitment to democratic values and our complete opposition to violence whatever the justification. For it is important for us to remember that 1990 was not simply a grab for power, but an egregious attack on our democratic ideals. Let us therefore remain vigilant in all that we do to ensure that such terrible events never again occur on our shores.
PHOTOS USED WITH THE PERMISSION OF GUARDIAN MEDIA LIMITED