Terror & Terrorism

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What is Terrorism?

At its most basic level, most terrorism involves the use of unlawful force to effect a change. In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act”. Terrorism can then be identified as different from common crimes in that it is:

  • Usually political in its aims and motives, as opposed to purely monetary or felonious
  • Ineluctably Violent – or, equally important, uses the threat of violence
  • Impactful — Acts of terror are designed to have far-reaching psychological impacts beyond the immediate victim or target
  • Calculated– The acts are conducted by an organization with an discernable chain of command or structure, usually with members who wear no uniform or identifying insignia
  • Perpetrated by a subnational group, faction or non-state entity.
  • Highly visible– Actions are commonly done publically, or involve or affect a major populace of a society in some overt way. Media coverage is important, as it can quickly spread fear or the effect of a single act, and thus brings mass attention to the group or cause.
  • Non-combat conditions– Sabotage and threats can be features of terrorism, but often a large spectacle which draws in many innocent people in normal society is used. This unexpected disruption of a society’s regular, “peaceful” routine creates vast social impact.

Whether or not the 1990 Coup was an act of terrorism is for the public to decide, what is clear however is that the unlawful actions of the insurgents created much turmoil for the citizens of our twin island nations as well as the wider region.


Impact & Reactions to the 1990 Coup around the Region

Several CARICOM nations in the region voiced condemnation of the insurrectionists’ actions. Jamaica, Barbados and five other Caribbean countries indicated their willingness to provide troops to help maintain order, stationed in Barbados and awaiting deployment. Internationally, the US, Britain, Venezuela and other allied nations gave full vocal support of Trinidad & Tobago’s government. Even while many citizens in the country were in the midst of the situation, Trinbagonian nationals all over the world were voicing their opinions in newspapers and editorials; showing their disagreement with the actions of the insurrectionists. In these responses, we see not only the far reaching effects of the Coup, but the willingness of our regional and international partners to assist in times of difficulty.

Outcomes from the 1990 Coup

The Nation

Despite the damage and difficulties, the momentary fear and uncertainty, the people of the nation did not let the hardship and terror of the Coup eradicate their communal spirit.  Though there was much danger and illegality which took place at the time, the government and the people recovered, with the economy and the infrastructure turning towards a course of slow, but progressive betterment. Of equal import is that the young nation’s history had met a critical point, one which would leave an impact on our mindsets, our music, and our culture in general. Some important lessons that came from the Coup—-lessons of triumph over unforeseen adversity, of courage, of tolerance and of fortitude through difficult situations— helped to shape Trinidad & Tobago as we moved into the new decade and later into the new century.

The Families of Insurgents

Muslim Family Animation

Abu Bakr and the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen’s grievances with the Government of Trinidad & Tobago may have been one of the major motivations for the Coup of 1990. The actions of this group changed not only the lives of the insurgents themselves but their fellow Muslimeen members and families.

Due to the great damage and loss of life, there was a lot of negative feeling surrounding the Muslimeen by many citizens of the country. In some ways, this bled over into a general discontent with much of the local Muslim populace; various Muslim-owned businesses saw down turns, and people were often cursed, harassed or threatened. This was endemic of the left-over fear felt by many during the Coup, and a number of people blamed the Jamaat specifically, and Muslims in general for “extremist beliefs”. Even years later, children of the Muslimeen insurgents report still feeling ill-will when their parentage is mentioned.

The Healing Process

Part of the healing process coming out of the 1990 Coup, was rebuilding ties with the citizenry, irrespective of creed or faith.  While the members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen are Muslim, and their actions were violent, not every Muslim was a part of the uprising nor shared Abu Bakr ideology. In fact, many Muslims do not condone acts of random and needless violence. In truly confronting terrorism in our society, we must also confront those mindsets which facilitate fear, hate and violence, and find newer, better ways to overcome them. The coup of 1990 affected all citizens of Trinidad & Tobago, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and otherwise, and it is only by coming together, working together and being vigilant that we can assure that such negativity which led to the coup is overcome and does not occur again.