Dear Editor: Should Trinidad and Tobago not give Abu Bakr his due: a national award of dishonour?

“[…] There is no greater example of our misapplication of the national watchword, tolerance, than the way we treat Yasin Abu Bakr… He hosts press conferences, and participates in national discussions as if he is qualified or worthy. He is not. His very presence at the table is an insult to this nation and all those who died in that attempted coup.

“He has never even apologised…”

The following Letter to the Editor discussing official and other deferential attitudes to Jamaat-al-Muslimeen head Yasin Abu Bakr was submitted to Wired868 by an ordinary citizen who has requested anonymity:

Photo: Jamaat-al-Muslimeen imam Yasin Abu Bakr masterminded the attempted overthrow of the Trinidad and Tobago Government in 1990.
(Copyright BBC)

There is no greater example of our misapplication of the national watchword, tolerance, than the way we treat Yasin Abu Bakr.

We tolerate a man who masterminded and led an attempted coup on our duly elected government; who was responsible for holding our parliament hostage unless his terms were met; whose people shot our PM, killed innocent police officers and destroyed our police headquarters; and who, in so doing, held us up to the world as another unstable democracy.

We gave him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

In the most amazing example of injustice, we allowed this man to walk free, deeming the ‘amnesty’ he held—while holding our PM at gunpoint—valid. If this was not a travesty of justice, I don’t know what was.

The dictum that ‘justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done’ was clearly not applied here. There was no consequence for this man, and the message communicated to everyone in this nation was that, in T&T, you really can get away with anything.

Photo: Downtown Port-of-Spain was in shambles during the 1990 attempted coup.

Yes. If we ever had any doubt that you could get away with anything, our treatment of Abu Bakr was proof positive. Not only could you steal millions—or billions—with no consequence, but you could literally commit violence against our government and the police and walk free.

Granted many of his lieutenants mysteriously turned up dead in the months and years following the 1990 coup, apparently victims of vigilante justice. But Abu (disrespect intended), the known and self-declared leader, has not only been free to walk the streets but is treated by the media and other institutions in this country as if he is a respected leader.

He hosts press conferences, and participates in national discussions as if he is qualified or worthy. He is not. His very presence at the table is an insult to this nation and all those who died in that attempted coup.

He has never even apologised.

Things would be different, if he had expressed contrition for his attempt to overthrow the elected government and gratitude for his ‘amnesty’ and the way he’s been accepted into society. But he has done neither; and his latest diatribe on FB is just the latest example of the poisonous and ignorant invective he injects into his followers.

Photo: An impassioned Yasin Abu Bakr (right) speaks to fellow Jamaat-al-Muslimeen members shortly after their release from prison in 1992.
(Copyright AP)

And he continues with his threats (sorry, warning.)

It’s not like he’s a local Father Teresa or Nelson Mandela or some man of the people. He has not been active in furthering the future of our nation, except in so far as he wishes to see it become a place for Islamic Fundamentalism.

He ferments violence.

What’s worse is that he continues to ferment trouble. Our politicians seem to fear this man because, despite his ‘warnings’ and the spreading cancer of the radical Islam he actively breeds among disillusioned young men, they do nothing.

Maybe he has some weapon of mass (political) destruction for those in power. Nothing else explains the audacity of his threats, (sorry, warnings.); he launches periodic missiles, like his latest FB video with ‘warnings’ to the government. Just to let us know he’s still here and is dangerous.

Violence is not the answer.

Photo: A Jamaat-al-Muslimeen insurrectionist surrenders to the Defence Force after the27 July 1990 attempted coup.

While there is no one more deserving of a swift and violent end, this would neither be just nor helpful. We have granted him amnesty and allowed him to return to society. Three decades have passed, and violent revenge at this point would itself be a bad example—unless, of course, precipitated by fresh transgressions on his part.

What I am proposing is that we call a spade a spade and declare him for what he is: Abu Bakr, traitor!

We honour our national heroes with medals of honour, and give them houses. Shouldn’t we treat those who attempt to violently overthrow our democracy with the opposite? We have already passed on the hangman’s noose, a firing squad and life imprisonment, but how about this?

A national medal of dishonour. I’m sure we could propose many candidates, but isn’t Abu especially deserving?

So this year’s inaugural winner is Abu Bakr. For being a traitor to this country by planning, organising and leading an armed insurrection against the duly elected government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Would that not be fitting?

Photo: Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the Islamic group Jamaat al-Muslimeen, speaks during a news conference in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 17 October 2015.
(Copyright AP Photo / Shirley Bahadur)

For his role in the 1990 coup, let us confer on Abu Bakr a dishonourable title, the title of Traitor to Trinidad and Tobago, a title that can be included (without fear of libel) in all public references to his name.

This is unprecedented and, of course, would be attacked legally. But let’s go for it because he is a traitor. And is, is the correct tense because he’s never apologised. He’s never expressed any contrition for his murderous, traitorous acts. So let us at least speak of him, write about him with the proper attribution he has earned.

‘Insurrectionist’ doesn’t cut it.

Abu Bakr betrayed this country, its legacy, its institutions, its Constitution and its people. It’s time to apply perhaps the only possible censure to this man for his crimes against the nation. It would be a different matter if he had at least faded quietly into the night and spent his time helping, really helping his communities. But that is not the case.

He is using legitimate grievances, like the failure of due process, assassination of young black men and the negative effect of SEA on those who aren’t celebrating on TV, to agitate not for constructive change but as a call to violence.

That’s an effective strategy. It certainly was successful in getting others into power.

Photo: Jamaat-al-Muslimeen imam Yasin Abu Bakr.

Let our government declare him a traitor and let’s precede or end every mention in the newspaper with something like the following: Abu Bakr has been declared traitor to the country of Trinidad and Tobago.

And let him tolerate that!

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