by Larry Smith
"One of the first things to go in a coup - right after the presidential palace - is the radio and TV station - so we know broadcasting has power." -- Stephen King, director of BBC World Service Trust, speaking at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association meeting in Nassau last week.
Seventeen years ago, in the midst of a tanking economy, a group of home-grown Muslim jihadis blew up the police headquarters in Trinidad, took over parliament and held the prime minister and many others hostage.
The second thing they did was take over the state-run television station - to announce that the government had been overthrown.
A six-day stand-off ensued with the army, accompanied by widespread looting and chaos in the capital. The prime minister and his attorney general were both shot and wounded by their captors, and dozens of others were killed during the coup attempt.
Trinidad and Tobago is a plural society. The main ethnic groups are Hindu East Indians and Christian Africans, with a small minority of Muslim Asians, but the group that mounted the 1990 coup was mostly black. It's leader was a former policeman named Lennox Philips who had converted to Islam.
This bit of recent history shows that we don't need to look far to see how our own parliamentary democracy might be threatened someday. Our formerly homogenous society is now developing a significant and exploited creole minority, not to mention a hardened criminal underclass.