Lest we forget – President renews calls for annual 1990 memorial

Paula-Mae Weekes -
Paula-Mae Weekes -

FEARING that those who fail to remember their history are condemned to repeat it, President Paula-Mae Weekes has renewed her appeal for a fitting observance of the July 27, 1990 coup attempt and tribute to those who died.

“If we are to learn from our history we must preserve and transmit it in a form that is meaningful, memorable, unambiguous and potent,” the President said in a message commemorating the 31st anniversary of the attempted coup.

She also expressed concern that without a fitting observance the significance of those events would be lost on an entire generation.

“In 2018, I called for a ‘proper and fitting annual national observance’ to commemorate the attempted coup and today I renew that appeal.”

The President will lay a wreath on Tuesday, in remembrance of those, she said, who perished, as well as those forgotten victims who lost their businesses, sense of normality, dignity and peace of mind.

She observed, “While wreath-laying pays tribute to the dead, this dark chapter of our history merits a permanent memorial that would capture the horror and chaos of those six days with appropriate images, testimonials and historical information.

“Such a museum-quality display would reliably impart to present and future generations, the events, causes and consequences of the attempted coup d’état.”

She painted a vivid picture of that day on July 27, 1990, forever etched in memory when “a group of heavily armed insurrectionists stormed its way into the seat of Government and attempted to take for themselves the reins of power.

Posters have been erected on the fence of the President's Grounds, St Ann's, Port of Spain in memory of the 1990 attempted coup and those that perished during the ordeal. - SUREASH CHOLAI

“The confusion of many citizens, who initially assumed the events unfolding live on television were part of a performance, soon turned into disbelief, which gave way to horror as the nation’s capital burned and the grim reality of a six-day siege set in.

“In the harrowing aftermath, 24 citizens were dead, countless people were physically, psychologically and emotionally scarred and hundreds of millions of dollars in property had gone up in smoke.

“Thirty-one years have elapsed, but the painful memories of the dreadful events remain seared in the minds of those who were front row witnesses and casualties of one of the most brazen and senseless assaults in the history of our nation’s democracy.”

It is important to note, she said, that while the shocking images of those six days will not be easily forgotten by those alive at the time, there will soon be an entire generation of people with little or no awareness of or connection to the events of 1990.

“Many young people today have never fully understood nor appreciated the impact of those events on the landscape and trajectory of the nation.”

She quoted Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana's famous statement about those who do not remember their past being doomed to repeat it, to emphasise the need to learn from TT's history and preserve and transmit it in a more meaningful form.

In so doing, she said, “This commemoration would also help to avoid the romanticization of those events and paint them for what they were – an unjustified and heinous grab for power which robbed the innocent of their lives, rights, peace, and livelihoods.

“We must pay heed to the lessons of the past and honour the memories and experiences of those who died and suffered great loss.

The distressing and brutal scenes of July 27, 1990 undermined the very foundations of our country’s democracy and sense of sovereignty.

“Lest we forget, difficult conversations must take place and necessary steps be taken to ensure that we never again suffer such an egregious and audacious violation of our national security and freedoms.

Among those who died in the attack were Diego Martin Central MP Leo des Vignes, SRP Solomon McLeod, ASP Roger George, Estate Constable Malcolm Basanta, George Francis, Arthur Guiseppi, Helen Lavia, Lorraine Caballero and Mervyn Teague.

Former prime minister and late president Arthur NR Robinson was also wounded.


"Lest we forget – President renews calls for annual 1990 memorial"

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