Reginald Andrew Lassalle (born 1945), better known as Rex Lassalle, is an alternative medicine practitioner and former lieutenant in the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment who was a leader of an army mutiny in April 1970 as part of the Black Power Revolution.
Early life and educationEdit
Lassalle was born in Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1945 to a middle class Catholic family. He attended Belmont Boys Intermediate School and St. Mary's College, Port of Spain. Lassalle attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst from January 1965 to December 1966. Lassalle returned to Trinidad and Tobago where he served as a second lieutenant and later as a lieutenant in the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment.
At Sandhurst, Lassalle experienced racism and struggled with the underlying mission to maintain the status quo. He described his experience of being asked to produce "a written military appreciation of how to wipe out a Mau Mau enclave" as a turning point. After leaving the United Kingdom, Lassalle spent three weeks visiting an aunt in New York in the aftermath of the Watts riots and the assassination of Malcolm X. While there, he read Franz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, which inspired him to read Fanon's other works. Lassalle described these experiences in Harlem as his "finishing school".
On April 21, 1970, amid ongoing unrest, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago declared a state of emergency and arrested most of the leadership of the Black Power movement. When the Trinidad and Tobago regiment was summoned to the capital, Port of Spain to help enforce order about half of the army, led by Lassalle, Raffique Shah and other junior officers, refused to take up arms against the citizenry. Lassalle saw many of the senior officers as incompetent and unconcerned with the welfare of the people soldiers. As Shah later said, he and Lassalle also "felt the Government...no longer commanded a majority [of support]". Many of the soldiers were drawn from the same urban working class communities that Black Power movement drew its support from. Many of the officers that led them knew the university students they were being called upon to arrest. Lassalle was suspected of having ties to the Black Power leaders and had been under surveillance by the government.
Lassalle and Shah, together with other junior officers, staged a mutiny and took control of the Teteron Barracks, at Teteron Bay northwest of the capital. When the mutineers tried to leave Teteron, they were fired upon by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, and unwilling to engage in a fire-fight, they returned to base. Shah later said that "Rex Lassalle and I had agreed there would be no bloodshed, once we could avoid it". The mutineers held Teteron for 10 days, while engaging in negotiations with the government. Lassalle took the role of chief negotiator with the government; their demands included a general amnesty, promotion of Lassalle and Shah to the rank of captain, and the reinstatement of Lieutenant-Colonel Joffre Serrette as commanding officer of the regiment.
The arrival of Venezuelan warships of the coast of Trinidad provided a common foe to the loyalists in the army and coast guard and the rebels. Lassalle reported that the mutineers were prepared to break off negotiations in response to the threat, while the loyalists were reportedly unwilling to fight against the rebels if foreign troops landed. The United States dispatched six warships and 2000 marines with the stated goal of protecting United States citizens in the country. The United States also supplied the government with weapons to arm loyalist units.
Serrette was re-appointed commanding officer, the mutineers surrendered. Lassalle and Shah were appointed co-commanders of the regiment. They were subsequently arrested and charged with more than 50 offenses including treason and mutiny. Although he was never tried for treason, Lassalle was court martialed in March 1971 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He appealed, won the appeal, and was set free July 27, 1972 after an appeal by the State to the Privy Council. In total he served 27 months in prison.
- Anthony, Michael (2001). Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago. Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham, Md., and London. p. 340. ISBN 0-8108-3173-2.
- Lassalle, Rex. Grasshopping through Time using Ancient Wisdom. 1999, p. (vii)(22).
- O'Shaughnessy, Hugh (1972-09-06). "Trinidad to face new challenge from freed mutineers". South China Morning Post.
- Peter., Meighoo, Kirk (2003). Politics in a 'half made society' : Trinidad and Tobago, 1925-2001. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers. pp. 30–31. ISBN 1558763066. OCLC 51587787.
- Lux, William R. (1972). "Black Power in the Caribbean". Journal of Black Studies. 3: 207–225. doi:10.1177/002193477200300205. JSTOR 2783844.
- Meeks, Brian (1996). Radical Caribbean : from black power to Abu Bakr. Barbados: The Press University of the West Indies. pp. 32–35. ISBN 9766400237. OCLC 34898820.
- "Revolution was plan, Trinidad court told". The Globe and Mail. 1971-01-04.
- "Mutiny without the bounty". The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper. 2012-10-28. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
- "Black Power: A much needed revolution". www.guardian.co.tt. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
- Allum, Desmond (1973). "Legality vs. Morality: A Plea for Lt. Raffique Shah". In Lowenthal, David; Comitas, Lambros (eds.). The Aftermath of Sovereignty: West Indian Perspectives. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books. pp. 331–348. ISBN 0-385-04304-X.
- Kong Soo, Charles (2016-10-30). "Holistic practitioner Rex Lassalle promotes lifestyle changes: No quick fix to good health". Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
- Rex Lassalle, Official website