(Trinidad Guardian) Former Red House hostage Mervyn Assam said there were rumours that insurrection leader, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, always harboured ambitions to lead Trinidad and Tobago. “Whether it was in the context of an Islamic state, I do not know,” he said. Assam, a former National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) High Commissioner to London, said Bakr lived and studied in Canada. He made the disclosures yesterday while giving evidence before the commission of enquiry into the July 1990 uprising by Bakr and a band of Jamaat al Muslimeen followers.
Assam said he became a hostage because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He returned to T&T in April 1990 after his term as High Commissioner ended and went to Parliament on the afternoon of July 27 to get a licence to set up the Clico Investment Bank which he later headed, he recalled. He was in the public gallery when Muslimeen gunmen approached him and kicked and shoved him into the Parliament chamber where other MPs were being held hostage. He neither ate nor drank anything for the six days he was there, he said. Assam said he did not know if he was traumatised by the ordeal because he did not hold grudges against people but said about half a dozen MPs were badly affected. He added: “Rawle Raphael, Raymond Pallackdharysingh, Kelvin Ramnath, who circulated a story about me (that he told the Muslimeen he was the country’s representative to the Queen’s court) became somewhat delirious.
“They had to bring insulin for him or he would have gone into a coma. “Sudama, a bullet grazed his shoe and he was a bit shell-shocked.” Assam said then Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson stood up very well, even though he was brutalised and battered. “He never broke down, he added” Former Attorney General Anthony Smart was not in Parliament that day, he said. Smart had attended a cocktail reception and when he returned to Parliament and saw what was going on, disguised himself as a pantry maid and escaped, Assam said. Selby Wilson, another MP, got licks, he added. “Selby got some licks. I got some licks too but he got more licks,” Assam related. He rejected Joseph Toney’s claim that by 9 pm that Friday night the coup d’etat was over. “It was the worst night of my life. By nine o’clock we were in a state of terror,” he said. Assam said the hostages had to endure the stench of rotting bodies in the chamber that had no air-conditioning or ventilation.