|Memorial for those who lost their lives in 1990|
Photo credit: Newsday
When one thought of Trinidad and Tobago in 1990, one did not automatically think about insurrection and rampage. It was still fun, still flamboyant, still a gem in the southern Caribbean. On the evening of July 27,1990, that all changed.
As a child, the biggest crisis in your life, after a day of playing, is what snack can I get tonight, mummy? That night, after my brother and I were good little monsters all day, my mother was going to reward us with coconut sugarcake - my favourite!! We had grated the coconut, my brother and I, taking turns, and it was on the stove. We had taken our baths and we were all clean and cute, waiting for this magical treat to come off the stove, cool and set (sugarcake recipe here, for the curious).
We never got the sugarcake and for 2 little kids, this was a tragedy. A crisis! What could have been more important than the sugarcake? We had been good all day. We took our baths without fuss. But after talking to my the neighbour in the front yard, I saw my father put the television on hastily and then he called out to my mother in the kitchen to come quick, leaving me to stir the sugarcake mixture. But she never came back and only told me to turn the stove off. There was this man on television and men surrounding him, with guns, and they were on the Panorama primetime news set - but it was not the regular anchorman. This guy was not smiling nor was he welcoming. And guns!!
When I asked mummy later that evening what a coup was, she told me it was not a good thing. My parents explained to me that the man on television and his men had burst into the Red House - the official house of Parliament - and had taken the Prime Minister and members of the government hostage. They had set fire to the capital and the armed forces were now hastily being called out from wherever they were, to go face this unexpected monster. To some, this episode was thrilling, brought a rush - those who used the opportunity to loot and cart off appliances and clothes, while destroying property, and those who thought it would be a good time, by hosting curfew parties over the next few days.
|Port of Spain, Trinidad as it is today|
It was not a good time. The news that the insurrectionists had surrendered some 6 days later brought a huge sigh of relief. The mess of amnesty and the unforeseen release of all 114 men, after the tragic loss of human life and assault to the human spirit was insult to injury.
The world since then has become a truly evil place with many self-involved and delusioned people, taking matters into their own hands, at the expense of the innocent. But even in the darkest hours, the human spirit has the capacity to rise above the madness, narcissism and selfishness of those who seek to create turmoil and darkness. We find the strength to move ahead. I believe Norway has started on the road to recovery. And twenty-odd years later, on the eve of our history's defining moment, I hope Trinidad and Tobago will learn from past mistakes and find the strength in solidarity.