Dear Editor: The political shots Beetham is calling: joint concerted action now or anarchy tomorrow

“We are on the brink of civil war between those who have power either by the gun, their physical strength or their money and those of us who perceive themselves as having less. The majority of us have neither guns nor much physical strength so we become trapped between the world of the affluent and the world of the sufferer.

“Until we accept that all parties are at fault, we are not going to move forward. We all evolved around each other until we arrived at this state of affairs.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which takes as its point of departure the violent flare-up in the Beetham last week, was submitted to Wired868 by Dennise Demming:

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures on the election campaign platform.
(Courtesy Caribbean News Service)

Violent protest from the Beetham is the new normal! Beetham flared up under the UNC in 2013 and this current flare-up in 2017 is under a PNM administration. Despite a different political party being in power, the response has been nearly identical: hold a news conference, threaten stronger action, state that behaviour of this nature will not be condoned and move onto the next crisis while the citizenry retreats to their “safe space” or escapes to the rituals of Christmas and Carnival.

We are on the brink of civil war between those who have power either by the gun, their physical strength or their money and those of us who perceive themselves as having less. The majority of us have neither guns nor much physical strength so we become trapped between the world of the affluent and the world of the sufferer.

Old calypsoes sang about violence long before the situation got to this stage. Big businesses may not have physical strength but wield power in a different way to their own benefit. Until we accept that all parties are at fault, we are not going to move forward. We all evolved around each other until we arrived at this state of affairs.

Successive governments have presided over this continued deterioration and, when out of office, they threw stones and accusations at those in office. There is little difference between the persons in the Beetham and the average income earner. We are all facing similar situations of deprivation in a society which should have utilised resources in a more equitable manner.

Photo: A fiery protest at Beetham Gardens in 2012.
(Courtesy Anonymous Motorist)

If you liken the society to a fish tank, we are all trending towards becoming “bottom feeders” as the one-percenters flagrantly continue their lavish lifestyles. Without meaningful interruption, a once thriving society will become unrecognisable. Just glance at our neighbours in Venezuela.

I am not encouraged by the Prime Minister’s statement that a line had been drawn by last Thursday’s “lawlessness” along the Beetham Highway; it is strikingly similar to the statement in 2013 by the then Minister of National Security that “This anarchical behaviour will not be condoned.”

In a Trinidad Guardian article published on Friday 21 August, 2009, it was reported that, in response to Beetham residents’ shooting at police officers, “close to 100 police and soldiers responded and locked down the area in search for the attackers who could not be found.”

The lesson here is that “gun talk” and threats of punitive measures have NOT worked. Additionally, several pieces of seminal research have demonstrated that punitive measures do not reduce crime or criminality.

We have to operate on several different levels to have any impact. The police must take the appropriate action and the wheels of justice will spin at their own sweet time but this sticky problem requires a multi-pronged solution. This problem is deep and systemic and requires a radical response. But I am yet to hear of any plans to adopt a different strategy.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soldiers on the move during joint patrols with the police.
(Copyright Baltimore Examiner)

Different approaches are being tried in other parts of the world. The one that gives me hope came to my attention from a TED talk by Epidemiologist, Dr Gary Slutkin who “applied lessons learned from more than a decade fighting epidemics in Africa and Asia to the creation of a public health model to reduce violence through behaviour change and disease control methods. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a senior advisor to the World Health Organization and the 2009 Winner of the Search for a Common Ground Award.”

I noticed that Trinidad was listed as an adaptation partner in 2015, which means his work is known to the government. My expectation is that the Prime Minister will take leadership on this issue, call in the Leader of the Opposition and account to the nation that there is a collaborative approach to implementing solutions to crime as a national issue.

By their actions, the Beetham residents have not favoured either party; they are equally brutal to both.  The masterminds behind the protest have learned that the protest must be on both the Highway and the Priority Bus Route to have maximum impact. They have mastered the weapons of the weak. It is in the political interest of both parties to collaborate and begin the process of solving this sticky problem.

To do otherwise will be to condemn Trinidad and Tobago to a future of anarchy.

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About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a communication strategist, political commentator and event planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing business communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise is a member of the HOPE political party.

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  1. Very good analysis but are the politicians bold and brave enough to take the appropriate action to BRING LAW AND ORDER TO OUR COMMUNITIES and in the process change the image of the Beetham and other similar communities?

  2. Successive governments PNM and UNC buried their heads like the proverbial ostrich and did nothing, PNM attempted to put certain things in place along the strategic points , acquisition of OPVs and UNC dismantled everything. Now the PNM has restart, but the MONEY done, so murder and mayhem in the OK corral continues, with Wild Wild west Trini style. Unfortunately, little ‘black boys killing one another and they are daily dying in the streets like dogs. Mothers continue to hold their heads and bawl while the politicians simply move on.

    • #Glasgow, I am disappointed by your party blindness but not surprised. Indeed, the three OPVs were canceled but were replaced by TWELVE vessels that were more suitable to our maritime environment.
      You cannot blame Kamla for this one deary, as the Beetham has been a creation of the PNM from the 1950s. The PNM has underdeveloped this area and has created a loyal, dependent, undereducated pool of PNM voters.

      You should note with interest, the hotspots identified by Dr. Rowley in his speech last week, they were all PNM strongholds. You must ask why are strongholds of the PNM so crime-ridden.

      I’m guessing now you will say Enterprise is not a PNM stronghold in order to attempt to contradict my point. However, please note that under Mr. Manning, he created a policy of moving loyal PNM supporters from Laventille and other PNM crime areas to Edinburgh, Enterprise, and Tarodale Gardens, thereby spreading the infestation of crime. Have you ever heard of these areas being hotspots prior to 2001?

      I can write a thesis on policy and crime but your political bias will not allow you to understand it, yet hopefully, a little information will help.

  3. That’s Patrick Manning s words (Hansard )

  4. Well said , though I have little belief that they’ll heed your advice .

  5. Citizen’s action is important but this issue has been fuelled by both parties and requires a collaborate approach to its resolution. Here’s an image from Epidemiologist Gary Slutkin showing that in 2015 T&T was an adaptation partner which means that both parties are aware of this approach and had some level of engagement. We cannot stop now.

  6. And therein lies the problem – Govt and opposition won’t meet to help resolve. It’s easier to blame the other for the current situation and capitalise on it or focus on trivialities like why the PM can’t tell about Beetham in Couva.

    • Any legitimate real life solution moving forward Will Not Include any one associated with any party or political aspirations to date.

      This ain’t a vaccination

      And the people who created a problem can’t fix the problem

      “They Ehnt RiotYet”

    • Good luck with getting them to meet. It’s not going to happen. A new party is needed, with people like Lasana, Nicholas can’t remember his surname and a few others. How they’re going to fund a campaign is beyond me.

  7. We are and have been in a civil and class war. For a long time. A few of us –like me was on the vanguard of the falling of the precipice. I remember all whose hands I reached out for … As I was early on the crash.

    In the last week, again, I have written five different people about mounting that “concerted action” post the Beetham Riot.. That seeks to address various missions: 1. Remind us who leads and the madness tgey utter. 2. To let folk know they are not drowning alone. 3. To judge an energy to coaleace and mobilize to higher action (a poll of sorts) And 4. To make money to launch greater action

    Me just one person. Perhaps others have ideas. I will let it be known if ever I get a response. From any quarter.

    The Irony?
    Been trying to launch initiatives to avoid just this portal, for a decade now, if not before.

    My document if Trinidad Ideas goes back to 2003, afterall

  8. The one percenters are ready for the war however it may come, eg. ANSA GROUP, MASSY, KISS. BERMUDEZ etc

  9. Mr speaker I see hate I see acrimony…I see spite…a wajang….a raging bull…totally out of control

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