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Abu Bakr – much ado about nothing

Published:Sunday | October 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

About 50 years ago, Lennox Phillip, a Trinidadian national studying in Canada, converted to Islam. He returned home and later formed the radical group Jamaat Al Muslimeen. He changed his name to Yasin Abu Bakr.

His first brush with the law came in 1985 when he attempted to erect a mosque on lands belonging to the Port of Spain City Corporation. The circumstances surrounding this event resulted in him spending 21 days in jail.

His crowning moment, however, came in July 1990 when he led more than 100 Muslimeen members to stage a coup in Trinidad. The prime minister, A.N.R. Robinson, was warned of these plans and encouraged to postpone the parliamentary sitting, but responded with the regal rubbish we hear so often from those in these positions. It went something like this: "... I have taken an oath of office and will not deviate from it in front of a potential threat ... ." So he proceeded to Parliament.

Abu Bakr ensured that his humiliation included a proper backsiding and a gunshot when he attempted to order the army to attack the militants. Abu Bakr surrendered after six days. He and his men were taken into custody and tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender. They were released. This effectively ended the power of PM Robinson and the National Alliance for Reconstruction.

SCORING POINTS

In subsequent years, Bakr has given as good as he has got. In fact, if I were to use a point system, I would put him marginally ahead of the T&T government. He filed a constitutional motion against the State for the destruction of buildings and other property at Mucurapo Road during the insurrection. He won the case and was awarded $2.1 million in damages, which he received.

The State also filed a constitutional motion against Bakr and Jamaat for damage to Parliament (Red House) and the police headquarters. The State was awarded $15 million in damages. They have not received one red cent. And it's not as if they are outcasts in their own country. In 1995, Jamaat campaigned for the United National Congress (UNC) in the general election and took credit for the UNC gaining control of marginal seats. In the 2001-2 election, Bakr campaigned for the People's National Movement, again taking credit for the party's success in marginal seats. Socially, life couldn't be better. He travels extensively, has four wives and 14 children.

Last week, he attempted to enter Jamaica, ostensibly to attend the Farrakhan Million Man March rally. He was denied entry and hurriedly returned on a chartered flight costing us $4 million. The reason given was that he was such a serious threat, there was no alternative.

Can anyone explain what Bakr could have done to destabilise a country like Jamaica between Thursday evening and Monday? T&T may be careless with their dealings with him. But there are much larger eyes watching him and Jamaica's security arrangements are a notch or two above Trinidad's. So would the invasion be a one-man show? Or were his insurgents hiding in Portland? Why do we

listen to these stories and say nothing?

'FEEL LIKE A PRIME MINISTER'

A refreshed and satisfied-looking Bakr held a press conference on his return to Trinidad. Using a Jamaica accent for those in attendance who were still not amused, here are a few statements he made, "... Boy, last week them hold some Jamaicans, send them back home, and them no give them no phone call, no food to eat, them make them sleep on the floor and more than that, them murder a Jamaican youthman in Trinidad and make him kneel down and shoot him, and Jamaicans are pissed off with that."

Apparently, an attempt was made to deny him a phone call, and he claims his high commissioner to Jamaica, Dr Iva Gloudon, "... sprang into action and ensured that he was able to make his call, had food and health care, and was comfortable". By the way, do we have a high commissioner in Trinidad?

I cannot conceive of any threat this man could pose to Jamaica. Whatever the reason for this unusually expensive move, our leaders went ahead knowing full well that after a week, we would be quite willing to forget about a truthful explanation and move on. At 74, Abu Bakr is now nothing more than a tall, toothless tomcat. Oh! One interviewer asked him what the return trip was like. He replied: "... I felt like a prime minister."

n Glenn Tucker is a sociologist and educator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.