October 28, 2020

Trinidad Muslim group warns political parties


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images-Caribbean-Abu_Bakr_469727875PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – A Muslim group has warned political parties in Trinidad and Tobago that they should desist from using Islam and Muslims as pawns in the fight to gain political dominance here.

“If these parties continue along this path; the face of politics as we know it would change… A change we are not prepared to endure,” the Islamic Front said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement followed the controversy over the election of mayor for the city of Chaguanas in Central Trinidad after the United National Congress (UNC), the biggest partner in the coalition People’s partnership government, the newly formed Independent Liberal party (ILP) of former national security minister Austin “Jack” Warner and the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) won the same number of seats in the 12-member council.

However the deadlock was broken after the ILP councillor Faaig Mohammed broke ranks and sided with the UNC amid allegations that he had received money in exchange for his vote.

Mohammed, who was elected to head one of the committees of the Chaguanas Borough Council, has denied the allegation made by the ILP, but he has since been expelled from the party.

The Islamic Front, which claims to have a membership of 200 and ties with Muslim groups regionally and internationally, said it “has been observing the behaviour of this country’s politicians, in particular those of the ILP and UNC, and is not impressed.

“The Islamic Front has always maintained a neutral position when it comes to politics and has vowed to work along lines of righteousness and sincerity with whichever party holding the reins of power, with the honest intent to bring about justice, fairness, peace and lawfulness in this Twin Island State of ours.”

The group said it was sending a warning to all political parties “in particular Jack Warner and his ILP’s party to stop and desist from using Islam and Muslims as pawns in their fight to gain political dominance”.

Speaking on a radio programme here, a spokesman for the group denied that the group was intending to engage in any criminal activity, saying it was instead urging civil disobedience.

In 1990, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen group led by Yasin Abu Bakr sought to overthrow the then government of Prime Minister ANR Robinson.

Bakr led more than more than 100 members in coordinated attacks on the Parliament and the lone television station on July 27. At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed during the six day insurrection that ended on August 1.

Bakr and his men were tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.

However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.

The coalition government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar has since set up a Commission of Inquiry headed by the prominent Barbadian jurist Sir David Simmons.

The Commission, which is expected to submit its report next year, has heard testimony from several politicians including former prime ministers Basdeo Panday and Robinson, but Bakr has refused to testify saying he needed to be paid for his testimony

PHOTO: In 1990, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen group led by Yasin Abu Bakr sought to overthrow the then government of Prime Minister ANR Robinson. (File photo)

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