“In some countries when similar acts take place, such persons are put before a firing squad, hung or tried and sentenced to death.
“Yet amazingly, some were given the opportunity to become members of parliament and then later permitted to communicate to the country through daily newspapers—which gave them the window to have weekly newspaper columns and to be so audacious as to have the unmitigated gall to talk about the shortcomings of others…”
The following column on the Defence Force mutineers during Trinidad and Tobago’s 1970 upheaval—since coined the ‘black power movement’—was submitted to Wired868 by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith Junior:
No one in uniform must ever even dream of being a mutineer, as what took place in 1970 must never happen again.
The 1970 Army Mutiny would remain as one of the biggest scars in our nation’s history. Yet for some reason every time this is discussed, even as recent as the articles published in daily newspapers on 26 April 2020 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of such an unfortunate event, the perpetrators are portrayed as dreamers—being too bright for their own good, standing up in defence of the oppressed, and doing what was best for the country at that time. That is totally wrong, misleading and if not addressed, creates the propensity for that scenario to reoccur.
As the youngest officer in the Defence Force exactly 20 years after that fiasco during the attempted coup, and now being the Commissioner of Police, I feel compelled to address this misnomer and clearly state that nothing is further from the truth. And such misconceptions must be totally eliminated from the minds of our citizens, because such views may cause others to think that way, inclusive of those who presently wear uniforms.
My statements are particularly poignant based upon the attempted coup in 1990, when the 100-plus terrorists did not have a snowball’s chance in hell to succeed. However, a brief moment of concern came the following morning, when the leader of the insurgents boasted that he had the support of many from the protective services.
The last thing you need in armed combat is to be looking behind your back, owing to the fear of a Trojan horse in your own camp. Such actions must therefore be condemned and rejected at every level in our nation.
Persons who carried out such actions, as seen in 1970, must be deemed as not dreamers, heroes, and persons acting based on a higher good. They should be labeled as what they ought to have been deemed when they committed such actions: as being enemies of the state, mutineers and a disgrace to any service where they wore uniforms.
If this continues to be stressed, it would ensure that there would never be any copycats who would take such treacherous actions again in our nation’s history.
In some countries when similar acts take place, such persons are put before a firing squad, hung or tried and sentenced to death. Yet amazingly, some were given the opportunity to become members of parliament and then later permitted to communicate to the country through daily newspapers—which gave them the window to have weekly newspaper columns and to be so audacious as to have the unmitigated gall to talk about the shortcomings of others.
My comments have become necessary to address the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ and deal with this hideous scar on our nation head on, as this issue always seems to be circumvented.
For far too long, it has incorrectly and continuously been perceived that because these were bright young soldiers, being highly trained at arguably the best Military Academy in the world, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, it gave them some degree of righteousness. As if they were smarter, brighter and better than their seniors, so maybe they were right to do what they did.
As a graduate of that same Academy, I can state that this is total hogwash and nothing could be further from the truth.
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK, does not train you to revolt, defy orders, put your senior officers under arrest at gunpoint, be deemed a traitor and commit mutiny. NO! Rather, they train you to be disciplined, patriotic and adhere to your oath and allegiance to country and office. Only if you perceive that you were ordered to do an illegal command, should you be prepared to do reject a command—even at your own demise.
There was no illegal command given in 1970. Instead, these were the actions of young upstarts who became full of themselves, because they thought their dinosaur leaders were moving too slow. And, as quoted in a daily newspaper, the catalyst to justify revolting and becoming traitors to their country was because then Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams declared a State of Emergency.
I understand fully about being younger, smarter and sharper than others senior to you. I experienced it via a motley crew, labelled in the Defence Force then as the ‘magnificent seven’, whose ego based on their rank, was larger than their ability to be productive.
But in the military, you comply and then complain. You do not rebel.
The audacity of the 1970 mutineers was promulgated even further with statements that one of their plans was to tell the government that the Defence Force should play a more interactive part with youths. This is the result of when power goes to the heads of persons who do not think clearly.
Their skewed logic was to do the wrong thing to get youths to do the right thing, which reminds me so much of the present situation where attorneys are demanding that people have rights and can exercise them by doing the wrong thing during this ‘stay at home’ period of the Covid-19 pandemic. And it is threatening to destabilise our country.
Thankfully, now we have a Defence Force and a Police Service where hopefully there would be no mocking pretenders who may be as foolhardy as those in 1970. History must never repeat itself, being mindful that the 1990 attempted coup was another example of a failed attempt at such illogical ideology.
We must therefore make it impossible for those who should have been deemed as mutineers and persons who breached a sacred oath of office, to ever be viewed as heroes.
Editor’s Note: Raffique Shah, a mutineer during the 1970 uprising, is considered one of Trinidad and Tobago’s foremost columnists and is a former contributor for Wired868.
Click HERE to read as columnist Cory Gilkes offers a contrasting point of view on how history should view the 1970 army mutiny.