Detoxifying Trinidad's Terrorist Threat
Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2003
We may never be absolutely clear on the real motives behind the half-baked story in the Trinidad Express Newspapers in Trinidad and Tobago headlined, "Islamic group unveils secret 'chemical labs'", which was about a threat from an 'Islamic group' in Trinidad and Tobago. However we do know shoddy and sensationalistic journalism when we see it.
Unfortunately, most people in Trinidad and Tobago seem unaffected by the International opposition to the US actions following 9/11. So it was surprising to most Trinidadians that there is a group in Trinidad and Tobago that was planning to reek havoc in opposition to the US' actions. Such a group never identified themselves in the print and electronic press.
Supporters of our Websites in Trinidad and Tobago have been assisting in keeping the general public informed with alternative news and views on the 'War on Terror' and the events in Venezuela via the numerous call-in programs. We have openly demonstrated our opposition to all Terrorist actions including the present US actions and we believe if a serious group existed in Trinidad and Tobago they may have tried to contact us at some point in time, as we are very vocal on these issues. We also operate a Website (UScrusade.com) that is severely critical of the present United States' actions.
No one has ever contacted us claiming to be part of any terrorist group and we are not aware of any such group in Trinidad and Tobago.
Generally, the commercial media in Trinidad and Tobago does not facilitate informed debates on these International issues. They feed the public whatever comes from news agencies like BBC, Reuters and the Associated Press, without any analysis or evaluation of the reports.
To date, most people have not been moved to protest any of the actions following the U.S. 9/11 attacks. The country is still engulfed in political tensions, which dominate the numerous talk shows.
There are several groups that may wish to further tarnish the image of this country not least of which is the opposition party.
Following the US, UK and UN terrorism travel advisory which came soon after a shipment of gasoline left our shores for Venezuela, the idea to exacerbate the situation for political motives may have been born.
There is a group of Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago who opposed the shipment of gasoline to Venezuela because they saw it as support for Chavez.
We believe that the US had their eyes on this country because of the presence of an Islamic group that violently attempted to overthrow the government in 1990. They may have also been concerned following the shipment of gasoline to Venezuela during Venezuela's business shutdown.
Anyone could have been behind this threat.
Freedom of expressions does not mean that someone is allowed to walk into a crowded building and shout fire while not believing there is one.
If the Trinidad Express receives a bomb scare, even if they do not believe the threat is credible, their first response would be to contact the police and be guided by the police directives and investigation.
In a similar manner that terrorist threat should have been treated like a bomb scare. It should have been reported to the police immediately and the police investigations should have been part of the story.
Whether the Trinidad Express and the journalist in question took the threat seriously or not, their first responsibility should have been the safety of our citizens. They did not have the means to verify the threat and the responsible agencies should have been immediately notified.
In consideration for the present international climate on Terrorism they should have also known that even if most locals dismissed the report as a hoax, the international community may not be aware of the possible political agendas behind the threat and the hostile political climate in the country.
The Trinidad Express certainly demonstrated that they did not consider this a serious threat.
Most people on the streets do not take the threats seriously, believing it to be another stunt from the Opposition party (UNC) that seems unable to adjust following their defeat at the last general elections 2002. Former Prime Minister now opposition leader, Basdeo Panday, remains bitter following his defeat at the polls and Trinidad have been experiencing what seems to be politically motivated staged incidents aimed at discrediting opposing political parties.
The reporter, Darryl Heeralal, who did that shoddy bit of journalism for the Trinidad Express would not have been able to convince us at Trinicenter.com to carry that story with so many unanswered questions. We would have called the police immediately upon hearing of that threat.
To further sensationalize the story, the Trinidad Express published a picture of the blindfolded journalist in the front page of their newspapers and Internet edition and without that picture most people would not have given the story a second glance. The reporter became the central figure in the plot.
The bottles that were displayed during the Trinidad Express' Television newscast were regular drinks bottles and the powder on the tables could have been anything from dirt to baby's powder. The information the so-called terrorist gave the 'reporter' was easily available on the Internet and the 'reporter' said that the 'terrorists' refused to give him samples to verify the claims.
Why did he not insist that someone who could have verified the substances go along with them?
If the journalist really believed that a group of people did possess chemical and biological weapons or were playing around with ingredients to produce such weapons then why did he not wear some form of protective clothing? Why did he allow himself to be blindly led into such a 'dangerous' environment?
How was he convinced that these people were adhering to proper laboratory standards to ensure there was no careless contamination?
If there is a radical group bent on destruction then certainly they are not bound to established safety standards. The reporter certainly trusted the lunatics.
Are we to believe that the reporter and the editors at the Trinidad Express were unconcerned about the possibility of that reporter and photographer returning to contaminate other people in and out of their media house?
The real concern is that some one or group may actually be planning to do serious harm and when it gets reported it may be treated as another hoax. There may also be an attempt to make the story seem credible.
We may never get to the bottom of this story like the quantity of cocaine and missiles found in a water tank in the home of one of the ex-ministers.
The police are investigating the story and are searching for the possible lab.
In our opinion the Trinidad Express acted irresponsibly by not promptly notifying the police and other relevant authorities upon hearing of this threat to our nation.