Today In History: On July 27, 1990, Jamaat Al-Musilmeen Attempted To Overthrow The Government Of Trinidad And Tobago

By mid-1990, the popularity of the reformist National Alliance for Reconstruction government had faded a little bit as perhaps unrealistic hopes for improvement were dashed by the reality of politics as usual in the small Caribbean island nation [1]. Two years before, police had raided the commune of a radical Muslim group, Jamaat al-Musilmeen, and had seized weapons and arrested a few dozen members, charging them with crimes like robbery, illegal possession of weapons, rape, and murder. Naturally, the group thought that the government was being oppressive, and so they opportunistically sought to take advantage of the unpopularity of the government to seize power by taking over the Red House, where Trinidad’s government leaders reside, as well as the headquarters of Trinidad and Tobago Television, to control the media for the country. Initially the coup attempt was moderately successful, but the plotters failed to completely neutralize the army, and over the next several days the coup attempt devolved into a hostage scenario, where some government leaders were injured but where the army was able to regain control first of the media and then, after an amnesty deal, the surviving hostages, including the country’s Prime Minister, were freed.

Although, perhaps shockingly, none of the coup leaders were ever brought on trial for the coup attempt even after the legitimacy of the coerced amnesty agreement was tossed out, the coup attempt did have some notable short and long-term repercussions for the country. In the short term, the island nation was put under martial law, with a 10PM curfew in effect for all citizens and tourists. Additionally, troops were marched up and down outside of the streets after curfew in Port of Spain, including in front of the Port of Spain Hilton, as a show of force. The longer lasting effects have been no less profound, including the flight of some civil servants after a prank phone call in 2014 threatened another such coup. Although the coup attempt itself was quickly forgotten in most of the world, if it was ever even known by them in the first place, it also had a profound effect on those who witnessed its troubled aftermath, including at least one child who visited the country only a few weeks after the coup. It is to this more personal story that I would like to turn now.

At the time the coup attempt was going on in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, a single mother and her two children, aged nine and seven, prepared for the children’s first trip out of the United States for the Feast of Tabernacles [2] to Trinidad & Tobago. The children, at least, were unaware at the time that they were heading into a perilous and delicate situation. Soon after arriving in the shaken country, and braving its anarchical traffic, and enjoying a formal afternoon tea, the tourists heard the sincere and gracious thanks of the cabinet-level Minister of Tourism thank them and their fellow travelers for coming to Trinidad despite the late unpleasantries there. Tours of the capital city led to the observation of buildings riddled by bullets as a result of the coup attempt, as well as nervous attempts by locals to claim that the trouble was all the result of Libyan immigrants. Later on, a day trip to the lovely island of Tobago endangered the safety of the taxi driver from the airport, who had to be on the road after 10PM in order to return home. The exception to the curfew that was given for this driver allowed the tourists to witness the mercy accorded even in troubled nations to those who cater to privileged tourists. This testimony is a faithful and true record, from my own memories as a nine year old child on my first trip out of the United States.

It is difficult to overestimate the long-term effects of my first international trip on my own view of the world and its political order. The sight of bullet-riddled buildings was my first sight of contemporary urban warfare and its horrors, and gave me a deep horror towards the attempted overthrow of legitimate elected governments [3]. Simultaneously, the terrifying sight of troops marching outside my hotel room while I tried to sleep late at night and the panic and concern over the peril our taxi driver was under for driving us back from a peaceful trip to Tobago one evening gave me a lasting visceral horror towards military oppression and tyranny. Later on, I would reflect on the fact that martial law is often declared in such nations as Trinidad and Tobago in the aftermath of a dangerous coup attempt or some other man-made or natural disaster as a way for a beleaguered government to make a show of force to project strength when it feels weak and threatened, to give others the fear and terror that those who rule are feeling themselves. This lesson would be a profound one in my further travels, as I would with a critical and jaundiced eye witness the insecure macho posing of nations around the world, even as the residual horrors of witnessing such a scene of widespread fear only reinforced my own crippling personal anxieties and nervousness. No matter how beautiful parts of the world were on the outside, there was a deeply fearful and anxious heart within. Truly, after that trip abroad I was a citizen of the world, and it was not what I hoped it would mean. It is worth remembering these events, as the repercussions from this coup attempt still spiral in my own life.

[1] See, for example:

Click to access rptcoe1990.pdf

[2] The Feast of Tabernacles is a biblical religious festival that lasts about a week in the autumn of the lunisolar Hebrew year (September-October) and that pictures the greater harvest of mankind into the Family of God as well as the righteous and godly Millennial rule of Jesus Christ over a subdued and peaceful earth free from human and demonic misrule. Several posts on this blog discuss this particular event and what it pictures. See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Today In History: On July 27, 1990, Jamaat Al-Musilmeen Attempted To Overthrow The Government Of Trinidad And Tobago

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Rhetoric Of Empire | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: A Necessary Evil | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: You May Not Be Interested In War, But War Is Interested In You | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: The Muslim Minority As Dhimmi | Edge Induced Cohesion

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