AS LAWMAKERS in the US began hearing harrowing testimony on the January 6 siege of the US Capitol on Tuesday, this country marked the anniversary of our very own democratic catastrophe: the events of July 27, 1990.
Once again, President Paula-Mae Weekes issued a call for a fitting annual observance of the deadly events of 1990.
Ms Weekes’s plea has for too long fallen on deaf ears.
We can understand why the idea of a memorial might seem an awkward proposition. The coup attempt was a terrifying event that left considerable trauma in its wake. It was also an embarrassing lapse of security witnessed by the entire world.
Given the fact that none of the perpetrators have ever been held accountable in court, it is understandable why some would rather forget.
But the truth cannot be swept under the carpet. Nor should it.
Among those who died in the 1990 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. Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson was wounded.
The capital city suffered hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage. There was widespread looting. Many believe Port of Spain has never regained its bearings since.
Laying a few wreaths and putting up a few banners around the Queen’s Park Savannah – which President’s House has resorted to doing over the last few years – are hardly adequate means of educating the public about all of this.
In its 1,590-page report, the commission of inquiry appointed decades after the fact to investigate 1990 found that personal hatred of the sitting prime minister was a major contributing factor in the plan of the insurgents to topple the government.
While the insurgents might have wished the country to rally behind them, the population chose not to.
But the attack laid bare just how fragile our democracy is and how easily what we take for granted can be taken away.
Right now, amid deep political divisions, the US cannot even come to a consensus on the need for a bipartisan approach to its own Capitol Hill inquiry: Tuesday’s sitting was of a special committee appointed by the Democratic House Speaker after an independent investigation was blocked.
This country only convened an inquiry in 2010. Before that, legal wrangling played out in the courts for years but to no avail due to a series of errors, delays and legal technicalities. And the holding of an inquiry eventually became a political issue.
Inevitably, the report of Sir David Simmons, QC, could not deliver what many still yearn for: justice.
Which is why we need to pause, reflect and remember in order to learn from the past.