Skip to comments.Trinidad and Tobago Challenge UK Terrorism Warning (Trouble Near Our Shores Alert)
Posted on 01/23/2003 9:23:42 AM PST by Angelus Errare
Trinidad And Tobago Challenges U.K. Terrorism Warning
By Peter Richards IPS Article Dated 1/23/2003
E-Mail This Article
PORT OF SPAIN - The government is scrambling to undo damage done by a British travel advisory that warns ''there may be an increased terrorist threat'' in this Caribbean country.
While Prime Minister Patrick Manning has been vehemently denying the advisory, which he says was inflated by false allegations from the political opposition, senior ministers are being dispatched to London, Washington and New York to lobby officials.
Reaction to the warning, which was issued in December but only became an issue here this month, was immediate.
Two British cruise ship companies announced that they were pulling their liners off the Port of Spain schedule. One of the vessels, the 'Oceana', carried an estimated 1,950 passengers on its last visit here in November.
Officials estimate that the country stands to lose more than 30 dollars (five U.S. dollars) for each passenger lost, along with port fees. The pullout will also hurt downstream industries, such as tour operators and taxi drivers.
''This advisory has already caused real economic harm to the tourism industry in Trinidad and Tobago, and it has the potential to do damage beyond the tourism industry,'' Manning told Parliament last weekend.
The cancellations deepen the woes of a tourism industry that lost an estimated 22,920 cruise ship passengers - among other tourists - after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
While he admitted that the ''spectre of terrorism and the constant threat of terrorist attacks anywhere and any time have become a feature of today's world'', Manning insisted ''we do not believe that there is anything happening in Trinidad and Tobago which warrants our being singled out for special mention and treatment''.
But the British Government and the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) do not share that view.
In an article posted on a World Bank intranet site, opposition legislator and former government minister Sadiq Baksh told 'Insight' magazine last week that he was very concerned about the threat to security posed by a radical Islamic group.
UNC leader and former prime minister Basdeo Panday has made numerous references to the involvement of the radical Jamaat-al-Muslimeen group in the country's politics.
In 1990, the Muslimeen staged an unsuccessful coup, and the UNC says that the group played a major role in ensuring victory for Manning's Peoples National Movement (PNM) in last October's general election.
The prime minister said the opposition knew that its statements ''made in the current international climate could elicit nervous, negative reaction acutely damaging to the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago''.
''A country's reputation is a precious asset, which can be so easily damaged or destroyed,'' he said.
Last week, Manning met both the British High Commissioner Peter Harborne and U.S. Ambassador Roy Austin on the issue.
Trinidad and Tobago had sought to prevent London from issuing the travel advisory following the visit here in December of Baroness Amos, parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
But she responded by telling Port-of-Spain that, ''while we understand the concerns, the lessons of (recent terrorist bombings in) Bali (Indonesia) and Mombasa (Kenya) make it clear that no one is free from risk, and no group of individuals or countries is exempt from the threat of terrorism''.
''We therefore believe the current travel advice for Trinidad and Tobago is measured and entirely appropriate,'' she added.
Newspapers have recently reported that foreign intelligence officers are in the country probing the alleged involvement of a local Muslim group in possible attacks on British and U.S. interests.
But the administration insists there is no ''unusual'' presence of officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), nor the British Intelligence Service, MI6.
The reports allege the agencies were investigating the Waajihatul Islaamiyyah (The Islamic Front), which publishes a newsletter here condemning British and U.S. involvement in the Middle East, Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world.
The media reports say the U.S. embassy was informed of plans to attack U.S. business interests in Trinidad on Dec. 22, while the British High Commission says its intelligence learned of plans to target British interests around the time of carnival celebrations, in March.
Waajihatul Islaamiyyah was said to be behind both schemes.
Manning told legislators that following recent terrorist attacks, ''governments around the world now wish to be 'safe rather than sorry'.''
''Unfortunately, with help from our own subversives, it is the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago who are being called upon to pay the price, economic and otherwise, for the new doctrine of 'just in case'.''
The government's effort to counter the bad publicity has received the backing of the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce.
The private sector group said in a statement that it was advising investors and potential foreign visitors ''there has been no history of a terrorist incident in Trinidad and Tobago targeted at foreigners or anyone else'', and that ''no country was free from the imminent danger of terrorism''.
The Tourism Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (TIDCO), the island's tourism agency, has also joined the campaign.
It has taken steps to assure present and potential visitors from the United Kingdom that there is no terrorist threat in Trinidad and Tobago'', said TIDCO's corporate communications manager Renatta Mohammed.
The Jamaat al-Muslimeen group is likewise cause for concern. When they first attempted their coup, most people probably dismissed it as an isolated incident. But it'd also be the perfect stop-over point for terrorists heading into the continental US.
Just something to think about.
FreeRepublic , LLC
PO BOX 9771
FRESNO, CA 93794
Weapons seizure heightens Trinidad coup fears July 1, 2001 Posted: 4:34 PM EDT (2034 GMT)
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuters) -- The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who has long warned of plots to topple his government, has reiterated there are serious threats to national security following a major arms seizure in the United States.
With a broad brush, Prime Minister Basdeo Panday has implicated a former insurrectionist group, the main political opposition party and trade union leaders of trying to destabilize his government.
Opponents have accused Panday of paranoia and diverting attention from problems in the government. But last month's seizure of an arms cache in Florida, as well as the arrest of a Trinidadian allegedly linked to an anarchist group that tried to topple a previous government, have intensified fears of unrest.
Panday has issued warnings on several occasions, vowing defiantly never to surrender to "insurrectionists, anarchists, gangsters and other criminals." He spoke out again last week of what he said was "a serious threat" to the southeastern Caribbean nation.
Panday, leading the ruling United National Congress administration for a second consecutive term, said massive quantities of illegal arms and ammunition were being organized for shipment and some had already been smuggled into the oil-rich, twin-island nation of 1.3 million people.
Renewed fears of coup "The anarchists who got away with arson, kidnapping and murder in 1990 are threatening to do it again," 68-year-old Panday said last week.
In July 1990, the Jamaat al Muslimeen, a predominantly Afro-Trinidadian group led by a former policeman tried to overthrow the government in a bloody six-day siege that killed 23 people.
The 114-member group held hostages, including then-Prime Minister Arthur Robinson, in the parliament and at the state-owned Trinidad and Tobago Television headquarters.
The Muslimeen members were absolved of treason, murder and kidnapping charges when a court ruled that an amnesty given to them during negotiations to end the siege was valid.
New fears of a coup plot have arisen in part from alleged irregularities in the December election that returned Panday to office, an election that aggravated racial tension in a population evenly divided between people of Indian and African descent.
Panday is the first prime minister of Indian descent.
Those fears where heightened further by the seizure in Miami two weeks ago of 60 AK-47 rifles and 10 machine guns with silencers and the arrest of a Trinidad-born U.S. resident, Keith Glaude, who said he was a member of the Muslimeen.
Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj said the guns were bound for Trinidad and Tobago. A second Trinidadian linked to the weapons and facing gun smuggling charges in the United States was identified as a Muslimeen member who took part in the 1990 coup attempt.
Maharaj said last week security was in place to thwart any attempted coup, adding, "I think people can feel very, very, safe."
Police also have beefed up security following reports that a religious group planned to bomb their stations, which have been barricaded with concrete and iron.
Panday accused the opposition People's National Movement of trying to incite its supporters and threatening the speaker of the House of Representatives who recently suspended two of its members from the House.
"They are talking about war, revolution and bloodshed," Panday said. He also has accused "hard-liner" trade union leaders of threatening explosions and eruptions and "ventilating incitements to anarchy.
The political opposition and trade union leaders deny the accusations against them. Opposition Leader Patrick Manning called them "red herrings" aimed at diverting attention from serious problems in the ruling party.
"It's not the first time he's accused us of trying this and it's not the first time he's been wrong," Manning said of Panday's most recent remarks made last Tuesday.
I somehow doubt the religious group referenced was Buddhist ...
Soon, given the natural rate of increase of non-Europeans, especially Muslims, in Britain, it too will look, smell, and be as unsafe as Trinidad and Tobago, without the advantage of some very beautiful beaches and a warm climate.
And with the Washington snipers, I wonder? I always thought they were probably Al Fuqra.