October 07, 2010

Troubles of a small island 'Paradise'

NJACImage via WikipediaTwenty years ago today the tiny twin-island state of Trinidad & Tobago underwent a failed attempt at a coup d'├ętat. During the intervening years widespread suspicions have been raised about the extent of foreknowledge by certain individuals, including key members who failed to attend Parliament on that fateful Friday, with a formal inquiry yet to be held. Just this past week the new government undertook to set up such a commission to inquire into the circumstances surrounding that event. Of interest here is that both previous Prime Ministers subsequent to that 1990 coup attempt were among the few who did not attend Parliament on the day of the coup and stoutly resisted calls for such an inquiry. Hopefully the full truth of what transpired will emerge, including who knewwhat and when, and whether there was any involvement by a powerful nation up north with a reputation for destabilizing regimes that fail to meet its approval. Though still not well known, there is evidence that the 1990 attempted coup could have been averted.

Twenty years earlier - or forty years ago - the small Caribbean nation (then barely amounting to one million) experienced its first serious upheaval since achieving independence in 1962. Following the civil rights marches stateside in the 1960s, the Black Power Movement was formed in the year of Martin Luther King's assassination to agitate for social change and against racial discrimination locally, culminating in 1970 with the Black Power Revolution. Following the declaration of astate of emergency by then Prime Minister Eric Williams, a segment of the Defense Forces led by both Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle caused the country's collective heart to miss a few beats when they rebelled, finally surrendering four days later.For those interested in reliving the events of that time through the safety of the written word, here is an in-depth account from ringleader Raffique Shah, who went on to become a respected journalist and writer - BLACK POWER 1970.

A decade into the 21st century then, are we to expect a revisit from the seeming 20-year itch for upheaval in the social fabric underpinning this small piece of Caribbean real estate? It is quite interesting then that, for the first time this year, both leading actors in those earlier productions chose to participate directly in the electoral process rather than seek to attack from the outside. The Black Power Movement continued through its political arm NJAC as in previous years - this time joining the alliance of the victorious People's Partnership, whilst the more infamous group headquartered on Mucurapo Road contested under the banner of the New National Vision, though losing their deposits in every one of 12 seats contested. So perhaps the revolution of today's generation took place when, for the first time in T&T politics a woman won the battle for head of government, in the process retiring the two strongmen of the past quarter century, while leading her alliance to a landslide victory of 29-12 in the general election, completing the victory with another sweep in yesterday's local elections, in taking all but 3 of the 14 regional corporations.
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