“Ay, rasta, wham?”
What laudable restraint! What admirable self-control! Having waited, according to the Trinidad Express’ Alexander Bruzual, all day to see Ricardo Jerome, the 36-year-old man accused of assaulting Ruth Marchan (not the former LifeSport director) in a bar, a woman grabbed him—presumably not by the scruff of the neck—and enquired simply, oh so politely: “Ay, Rasta, wham?”
“Rasta” is lucky; I would have been less kind. My brutally honest answer to the implied question posed by Hazel Griffith, a letter writer in Monday’s Express, is emphatically yes.
Ms Griffith seeks to put the focus not on the “coward, (the) manicou, (the) no kinda man, (the) monster, (the) perpetrator” who is the central figure “in the latest human-on-human abuse video gone viral” but on the “man who slithered away.” She attempts to suggest that many of us would have done the same.
“Of course in hindsight we all would have intervened on the woman’s behalf. We woulda jump een and mash up he so-and-so! Break een he tail!”
Easy as it is to say so now, I am quite certain I would have intervened. I have, inter alia, one deceased mother, one wife, two daughters and six sisters. That makes ten reasons why I would have been incapable of standing idly by—unwilling to “jump een”—in the face of such wanton brutality by an unarmed man.
But this is T&T in 2015, so I have to stress “unarmed.”
And I could so easily have gotten involved since, on my way to and from home, I often pass by the bar in which the incident took place. By the way, attention needs once more to be drawn to the sloppiness that characterises local news reporting.
Mr Bruzual consistently tells us that the incident took place at an establishment “on Arima Old Road in Arouca” reckless of the reality that there is no Arima Old Road in Arouca.
And Kalifa Clyne’s Guardian story on Saturday says that “The couple surrendered to the Arouca Police.”
Since when does a victim “surrender” to the police, Ms Clyne?
I suppose Ms Marchan was guilty of aiding and abetting the perpetrator. Or was she wanted for obstructing the police in the performance of their duties since she has reportedly declined to press charges against Jerome?
But I digress.
Also in Friday’s Express, Anna-Maria Mora lays bare her pain at “the public display of brutishness that ruled the social media this past week.”
“The Domestic Violence Act,” she asserts, “must say something about laying a charge without a victim’s statement in cases where there is this public display and the world witnessed.”
But then she ends her thunderous contribution not with the bang her righteous indignation led one to expect but with this whimper: “I guess if it happened behind closed doors and she does not want to lay a charge, well, everyone’s hands are tied.”
No, Anna, I am sorry; ours hands are NOT tied. We should not go gentle, as Dylan Thomas urges about an entirely different circumstance, into that good night.
Unable to intervene “live” as it were, unable to make Ms Griffith eat her unspoken words, we must feel compelled to intervene ex-post facto. And do rather more than ask: “Aye, Rasta, wham?”
The place to begin is with a reminder that, if the law is often an ass, in this case the law—yeah—is indisputably so. One respects every attorney’s right to defend his client but what gives any lawyer the right to tell the public not to judge his client in the court of public opinion?
And Mr Fareed Ali, who’s making a career out of being the advocate in these causes—not so much célèbres as notoires—has had the foresight to ask the Commissioner of Prisons to keep his presumably innocent-until-proven-guilty client “away from the general prison population.”
Good move! Justice may be “not a cloistered virtue” but the law sometimes needs offenders to be cloistered so that Justice can prevail.
If Ms Marchan had no brother, father or son to protect her when she needed protection against Jerome’s flailing hands and feet, should not Jerome be fearful if he is left accessible to these cloistered fathers, brothers and sons who themselves doubtless have mothers, sisters and daughters?
But the innocent-until-proven-guilty bit is rubbish, Mr Ali, pure, unadulterated, indefensible rubbish!
In fact, Mr Ali, your client has largely judged himself by turning himself in to the police. And don’t tell me anything, Mr Ali, about innocent until proven guilty. This is 2015, my learned friend. And unless you are telling me that the CCTV footage is faked, you’re going to have to get up very early to convince me that Jerome, picked out by eye-witnesses in an ID parade, is not guilty.
The evidence may not be justiciable but it is irrefutable.
So the issue is not whether Jerome is guilty but whether the law can prove it.
What then is the problem?
Even if, as Ms Mora points out, the Domestic Violence Act requires that there be a complainant and Ms Marchan refuses to press charges or be sworn as a witness, why are we insisting that Jerome be charged under the DVA?
Who cares if this barbarian is charged under Karl Hudson-Phillips’ odious repealed Sedition Bill or Anand Ramlogan’s flawed Anti-Gang Act, just so long as he does not get away scot-free?
Ms Clyne’s Guardian story says that the police have “at least seven eye- witnesses to the events,” some of whom have already given them statements. It adds an opinion from a former policeman-turned-attorney that the authorities can find less obvious charges to slap on the perpetrator if they are “clever or innovative.”
That’s asking a lot of our police but I feel sure there are scores of clever or innovative legal people who would offer their services for free to see this barbarian put away.
And we all, Anna, must do our part to see that the arrangements are in place to ensure that the many-headed hydra that is domestic violence is repeatedly decapitated. It is not enough to tell the victims to scream quietly so as not to disturb the neighbours.
So I am going to stop now and go listen to some soothing music. First up is Nappy Myers.
“Bring back the old time days,/bring back the old time ways./I know everything must change/but ah still love the old time ways.”
And when I have heard enough of that to be reasonably calm, I’m going to see if I can find a recording of Lord Caruso’s pre-Independence calypso: “Run the Gunslingers.”
“When the police hold them/and they arrest them,” it says, “do not fight them,/don’t imprison them./Put them in the square,/ let everybody be there./Beat them with the cat;/all who see bound to done with that!”