Review: Trinidad 1990 coup attempt

Trinidad 1990 coup attempt

On Friday, July 27, 1990, 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, led by Imam Yasin Abu Bakr and Bilaal Abdullah attempted to stage a coup against the Government of Trinidad & Tobago. Forty-two members attacked the seat of Parliament while 72 members attacked the T&T Television (TTT) station on Maraval Road, Newtown, which was at the time the nation’s prime broadcasting company and one of the only two radio stations. At 6 pm, Bakr announced that the Government had been overthrown. On the night of the 27th the army took control of the TTT transmitter on Cumberland Hill, taking the television station off the air and effectively curtailing the insurgents’ means of communicating to the national populace.

The Police Force surrounded and sealed off the area around the Red House. During that time, widespread looting occurred in Port-of-Spain and parts of the East-West corridor, though the remainder of the country was calm.

After six days of negotiations, the Muslimeen surrendered on August 1 and they were taken into custody. They were charged with treason but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender and they were later released.

Property worth millions were lost, 40 people died during the six-day takeover, including one member of Parliament, Diego Martin Central representative Leo Des Vignes. Many citizens saw the coup as the last nail on the coffin of the National Alliance for Reconstruction Government.  The leader of the Jamaat al-Muslimeen was, and still is, Yasin Abu Bakr. He was born Lennox Phillips in 1942, educated in Canada, a former policeman and convert to Islam. He is reported to have four wives, and various offspring. 

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