One day after he delivered a sermon during the Jamaat Al Muslimeen’s weekly Jummah at Mucurapo Road, where he called on the authorities to clean up its act as it relates to education, human rights and the ongoing socio-economic decline, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr says he is standing by his words which reflect the truth.
Dismissing allegations that excerpts from the address could be interpreted as inciteful and even instigative, he claimed there were mischief makers and spin doctors always looking for hidden meanings and salacious headlines in his words.
Bakr spoke with the Sunday Guardian at the Jamaat’s Mucurapo compound on Saturday afternoon.
When asked whether or not he is involved or aware of any plans to create civil unrest in T&T as he claimed pressure was building, Bakr did not reply. Instead, he countered, “You can’t be sane to ask me that question.”
Meanwhile, hours after the recording went viral on social media on Friday, acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob said the T&T Police Service (TTPS) had launched a review to determine if action was warranted.
He confirmed members of the TTPS’s Legal Department along with Special Branch officers had “reviewed that recording to analyse it and very soon, we will decide what form of action to take in relation to the comments made.”
Jacob said a decision should be made by the end of this weekend.
During a telephone interview with Guardian Media Limited, Jacob sought to assure the nation that, “The TTPS is actually fully prepared for any negative eventuality.” Pointing to the bonds formed with the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) during the years, he said this synergy meant, “We can handle any situation.”
Acknowledging the fears from some members of the public who believe there may be more behind Bakr’s words based on his leading role in the 1990 attempted coup, Jacob added, “All the law enforcement agencies are working together. Our intelligence is on top of the game, so in case of any tendency for anyone to go in a negative direction, we are going to handle the situation.”
The acting head said they were using all the apparatus and technology available to them to carry out surveillance to ensure no entity disrupts the smooth running of T&T.
Jacob said COVID-19 was the common enemy right now, and the public needed to come together and do the right thing to get vaccinated, as the goal was to shoot down this pandemic.
During Friday’s sermon, Bakr raised concerns regarding a number of issues which included the unfair placement of students who write the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam every year; the curriculum content in schools; the inhumane treatment meted out to prisoners; extrajudicial killings; and the lack of response by the Government to people who are unable to properly care for their families during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In the hour-long video, Bakr used words such as “war”, and “injustice”, asking the public if they “were ready to stand up for what is just.”
These comments referred directly to the Concordat and the 20 per cent option for denominational school principals to select incoming SEA students. He said this unfair practice continued to be perpetrated by people who select students based on the professional status of parents and their ability to help the school progress.
The incensed Imam also challenged legal luminaries to come at him for speaking the truth as he promised, “This time, you will see a wave…a wave…you are talking about the COVID-19 does come in waves, well this time you will see a sea coming at you. Injustice will not be able to continue anymore.”
He said he was only asking for his school and students to be treated fairly by the Ministry of Education.
Regarding the physical conditions in prison which he said has been described as worse than animal accommodations, Bakr reiterated that better must be done to treat with the prisoners.
He has so far granted the BBC two interviews during the last week in which he sought to highlight the inhumane conditions and called for an independent investigation to be conducted.
On the issue of extrajudicial killings, he accused policemen of killing black men unlawfully, to which he said, “It must stop.”
Commending Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bakr said he had to be praised for taking the steps he has so far taken.
Law Association President comments
Contacted on the matter, Law Association President Sophia Chote, SC said, “The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the acting Commissioner of Police must be listening to it (the recording) very carefully and studying it to see whether any offence has been committed.”