In a column published 20 years ago, in mid-May 2003, I described the subject of crime as priority numbers one, two, three, four, five and six. The column went on to identify to which aspect of crime each of the numbers related.
Number one was, of course, the murder rate.
In that same year, 2003, another one of my columns contained this warning:
“When the society is in constant turmoil, is divided by unjust material inequality and is distorted by the drug trade, the whole country could become one big wet fete where everything is up for grabs by the disadvantaged to whom the elected government has become irrelevant.”
By reference to a retrospective look at that 20 year period, I now expand last Sunday’s critique of what passed for reflection and inspiration between Independence Day and today, Republic Day—including what I am compelled to describe as the likely charade of proposed talks between the Government and the Opposition on measures to combat crime.
In 2003, I also put down a suggested turning point: “We must pressure the government, whoever they are, to take back control of the resources of the state from cronies and pardners, armed or unarmed.
“That is a political job. It is not the job of the police. Their job is to attack first and with urgency and integrity the drug trade that underlies the gang murders.
“If any government does not act independently of the criminal element in the society, whether they are grassroots bandits or the ‘devils in disguise’, the regulation of society in the interest of the common good will eventually become impossible. The laws of the land will have legal validity but will cease to be effective.”
Three weeks ago, an editorial in the Trinidad Express newspaper headed, In the jaws of the drug trade, stated that: “This trade has been going on for so long—about 50 years—that it is now so deeply embedded in the very fabric of the society that the question of securing the country from its nefarious impacts is not even on the agenda.”
A column of mine published a decade before that editorial entitled Our Narco-infiltrated state asserted in 2011 that:
“Here in Trinidad and Tobago the slackness of our leaders—not only the political ones—has permitted our country to become narco-infiltrated to the point where no one seriously doubts (except many delusional politicians if they themselves believe the nansi stories they tell us) that there are facilitators of the drug trade at every level in the society.”
The troubling intersection of politics, the underground economy and distrusted elements in law enforcement has been left undisturbed, even when the current Opposition was in government and declared a state of emergency in 2011.
As a consequence, no exhortations from on high and no “conversations” between the government and opposition can be productive unless politics, campaign finance and public works and procurement are collaboratively removed as far away as possible from that intersection.
With acknowledgement to the late Leroi Clarke, both sides have to take themselves out of that douendom.
There are other reasons why the proposed talks are likely to be in the nature of a charade. The Government and Opposition will each tote the mutual, visceral hatred, endemic in our party politics.
It is a charade to discuss passing more laws when the existing ones are not enforced. Promises to enforce the laws go back to times when the murders were first escalating to one in every 25 hours and to the respective tenures of Commissioners of Police Everald Snaggs and Trevor Paul—but the crime detection rate has remained abysmally low throughout the 20 year period under review.
What are the respective Government and Opposition plans to deal with oppressive socio-economic imbalances especially those furthered by the antiquated education system?
Will the current Government cease making the meaningless claim that the society is producing the criminals? We have suffered through decades of other deflections, such as “gang related” and the infamous “collateral damage”.
In the mid-1990s, attempts were made to mark down the number of murders by discounting those attributable to domestic violence.
Underlying it all is willful blindness. That blindness and the mamaguy will continue.