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Is murder a lifestyle choice? Daly ponders how to reclaim the streets of T&T

Port of Spain suffers from personality disorder, for a long time now, and so does many of its environs.

This disorder, sometimes described as split or multiple personality disorder, is defined by Psychology Today as “a condition wherein a person’s identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personalities.”

Each of these personalities produces different forms of behaviour. The different personalities are disassociated from each other and alternately control a person’s behaviour.

Photo: The Phase II Pan Groove steelpan performs during the 2016 Panorama semifinals. (Copyright Socanews)
Photo: The Phase II Pan Groove steelpan performs during the 2016 Panorama semifinals.
(Copyright Socanews)

Two Wednesdays ago, the peaceful, loving personality of Port of Spain was once again at its most evident. This was the annual occasion of the visit of the Panorama judges to the seven northern region large band panyards stretching from Phase II in the West to Trinidad All Stars in the East.

I previously described this annual occasion in a column in 2012 entitled Magnificent Monday. I made particular mention of the variegated composition of the crowds pouring into areas normally stigmatised.

I wrote: “To use the language of political jargon, Westmoorings met and mingled with Eastmoorings, and did so without a shove or unkind word, in a harmony of respectful self- policing crowd control.”  (See The Daly Commentaries page 617).

This year, the event took place at a time when there were more murders in the month of January than days in the month.

The other personality of Port-of-Spain and its environs, the murderous, bloody one, was contemporaneously acting up and providing a backdrop at odds with the peace and harmony prevailing on music judges’ night close to areas that are now in a mini state of emergency.

Given this disturbing start to 2016, a partisan political debate has centred on whether there has been a “spike” in murders and which of the two political parties is responsible for the “spike.”

Photo: Another lifeless body prepares for a trip to the morgue.
Photo: Another lifeless body prepares for a trip to the morgue.

The debate is sterile. There have been several previous occasions on which there have been clusters of murders.

In 2008 for example, we had 15 murders in one week and there was much talk then about stamping down on gangland.

Long before 2008, I had been emphasising the “dire situation of the disadvantaged under-class and the need for sociological research and the formulation of an informed social development policy to take the nation as a whole forward, in a manner which included the under-class” and stating that “meanwhile the education system continues to fail.”  That emphasis was set down in 2003.

By 2008, complaining again in this column about the lack of a social development plan to meaningfully to fill the socio-economic void that gangs fill, I declared: “It is hard to dispute that we are in a state of the breakdown of ordered legal control in the face of banditry.”  (See The Daly Commentaries Pages 256-257).

Recent news that gunmen had dragged two Laventille schoolboys out of a taxi and executed them has triggered the “spike” discussions, thunderous editorials and flatulent statements from business organisations limited to supporting joint police and army patrols but offering nothing else.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soldiers on the move. (Copyright Baltimore Examiner)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soldiers on the move.
(Copyright Baltimore Examiner)

Sadly, this is only a temporary stirring of conscience.  After all, the blatant unprosecuted, buggery murder of the young Akiel Chambers, who was taken from a poor neighbourhood to an upscale setting, never bothered polite society enough to support my outcry for justice.

I support the position of my fellow columnist, Raffique Shah, captured in his riveting statement that “rotating crime clampdowns face mission impossible.” I welcome his assertion that we all have a responsibility to deliver the wider society from the evil that we may have helped to create.

I emphasise again that collective responsibility requires urgent sustained attention to the underlying socio-economic conditions in which the savagery breeds, including the presence of the drug trade and the influence of its financiers.

I answer ‘yes’ to the question posed by my headline. Our decades of indifference to those living on the margin and our oblivion to the critical role of social development policies have made murder a lifestyle choice as an alternative route to power, wealth and rank.

It is a choice of doom for those who set aside funds for their funeral T-shirts. But it is a choice that also dooms many others on the lusher side of life who naively believe that walls, patrols and unaccounted for campaign finance will protect them forever.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago police on the move. (Courtesy Heritage Radio)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago police on the move.
(Courtesy Heritage Radio)

Perhaps those whose vision is limited to supporting the law enforcement patrols would enquire into the work, for example, of the Birdsong Academy—perennially scrunting for funds—and support such endeavours with a vigour equal to that with which they support “the rotating clampdowns.”

Perhaps they would visit the communities in which the panyards provide upliftment other than once a year in a maxi taxi—taking in the sweetness of the music communities but, unlike the enlightened sponsors of some of those music communities, giving little back.

All hail Methanol Holdings Trinidad, Hadco and First Citizens Bank for joining the enlightened band of frontline sponsors of steel orchestras in time for the current music season.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  1. The gun is the artificial manhood. The gang is the long lost family. The expectation is death . Add ” Look boy, do way yuh have tuh do” from a parent and Boom!

  2. More than that if we label people and heap scorn on them and keep damning them then if forced to make a choice they may go with what people expect of them anyhow. As trite as it is – ask the man out liming when it pass the time he should go home.
    He will probably stay and lime later knowing whatever time he get home then he will be facing the same circumstances.

  3. You know things are bad when your options are bad and worse…

  4. I live just outside Sherwood Park or what we call the Congo in Arima. That wasn’t a nice area at all growing up.
    As far as what Abdallah said, I remember going to school in CIC and the kids from the west were pretty apprehensive around the “east” boys. So I know about what reputation does.
    In fact, I remember Fazeer saying that people started getting out of his way when he was touring England with the West Indies after 9/11. And he did prefer fear to scorn.
    That’s a reality. If anyone has to choose between scorn and fear, what would they pick?

  5. Can you imagine if itxwas in the media’s interest to show the positive things about the area, the 10% will want to be like that.
    We keep uttering platitudes about the power of the word and yet we speaking negative on our brothers and sisters. Until we stop seeing our country as them and us we will see things just continue and grow negatively.

  6. Lasana, I am actually proud because I recognize and appreciate the 90% of decent persons living here. While I agree the crime situation is unacceptable, I also acknowledge that a lot of effort is used to highlight as much negativity as possible and as often as possible.the sad part is however, the 10% has a bigger influence than the rest. Why would I as a good law abiding citizen stand up against a criminal when he has the police in his pocket. Who am I trying to save? That confirms Beverly’s statement… those inflicting pain and the victims alike have become desensitized.

  7. The lawful people just go by and live their lives the best they can given the circumstances and hope and pray the situation fixes itself in some way without a serious backlash to their lives and property

  8. But in the end won’t that have a negative effect on the lawful persons in that community, Abdallah?

  9. Yes this helps feed the ill conceived notion in movies media etc the aura of the untouchable bad man

  10. So it can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy then Abdallah. The wider public sees them as dangerous bad men, so they start to see themselves that way too… Something like what you said Beverly?

  11. Lasana Liburd I can only give you an example of when my part of morvant never dirty the terrace had a whole set of murders robbery and we were in the headlines daily it actually made the youths proud to say we from such a dangerous area don’t mess with us and the wider community fear of never dirty was a plus to us getting contracts work and cred so public perception affects us differently . But I have seen a slight change in this now as the shift of power changes the youths now want less attention drawn to themselves but the more the public fears them the more enhanced are the egos to do wrong

  12. I thought Daly just pointed to what he felt should be our first steps. We can’t talk solutions yet if we don’t understand the problem properly.

    • Indeed, what is the problem? How did it occur? Why is this small geographical location in this state, and other are not?
      Why aren’t the PNM MPs held accountable for their failures?

  13. Which solutions did Martin Daly present? besides “a social development plan”.?

  14. I never thought about it quite that way. Very interesting. I wonder how public perception affects people living in such communities. It is hard to say from on the outside.
    What do you think Abdallah Phillips? Or Densill Theobald?

  15. It is how we treat with what happens. If we think it does not affect us directly we dismiss it from our minds. Or we openly voice our condemnation on what should be done to perpetrators. It starts small and soon both perpertrator and victim loses any kind of sensitivity. Kill or be killed everyone calling for blood anyway.

  16. Beverly, you mean it is irrelevant to the problem either way?

  17. ‘You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb’
    Our indifference or our condemnation has the same results.

  18. But there was a Flying Squad long before the coup. So clearly that was supposed to be a solution for a particular problem.
    In other words, this crime problem pre-dates the attempted coup.

    • The issue isn’t what caused it lol but why all these young men are drawn into such a life. We also have men joining ISIS. Is it that our education system frustrates and spits them out at an early age? Possibility to live more than hand to mouth?

      • But aren’t there other young men who are succeeding under the same educational system? Young men who must travel or walk further? Who do not get ‘pats on their backs’ by apologists when they commit crime and live a lazy deviant life?
        Their are young men from other parts of this country who sacrifice and seek education. They get up early on mornings and go to work at long distances. They sit in hours of traffic as they don’t have the luxury of living ten minutes drive from Port of Spain, or do not live near the PBR………….much more can be said.

    • Ahhh… I understand what you mean. Or I guess what attracts them in such numbers. But then you have to decide if such a group is a religious body or a gang first and foremost.
      That is important information to have. Do young men and women feel they are joining a gang or a religious movement when they enroll.

    • I have my opinion lol. But to me it’s a social issue-these young men look up to these ppl aa father figures I guess. What inspires such loyalty?

    • Well, religion is a whole other ball game eh. The Catholic church has had the world os scandals, for instance, but has no problem holding on to believers who are quite respectable in society.
      I don’t want to single out catholics because I’m sure there are other things in most religions.

  19. I am going to delve a bit more into the issue. If we look back to 1990, there was a person of influence to whom many young men gravitated, who joined this person to hold the nation to ransome. Single mothers, and young men with no father figures, making them easy prey for vultures-gang leaders? By the same token, why is it that more crimes, esp violent crimes, seem to be perpetrated by men?

  20. Excerpt: “I answer ‘yes’ to the question posed by my headline. Our decades of indifference to those living on the margin and our oblivion to the critical role of social development policies have made murder a lifestyle choice as an alternative route to power, wealth and rank…”