Scene: Office of the Prime Minister. Dr Keithos convenes an urgent meeting to tackle the murder rate, which has climbed, risen and worsened but not spiked.
Keithos: (Speaking softly to Energy Minister Nicole Ollivierre) So, Nicole, how is it going so far?
Nikki: (Beaming) Good day, Prime Minister. It is all wonderful. The only little issue is…
Keithos: (Interrupting) Okay folks. You know why you are here. I need ideas to deal with the escalating murder rate now. Shoot!
Fitzie: Oh Gaaaad!
(Works Minister Fitzgerald Hinds dives under table out of force of habit. Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Legal Affairs Minister Stuart Young coax him out again. Rowley rolls his eyes. Hinds regains his composure and looks a bit sheepish).
Maxie: Honourable Prime Minister, I just want to clarify… Is that an Opposition question?
Keithos: Maxie, go and check our social media pages or something. We will let you know when we need you.
(Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie leaves the room).
Dillon: Sir, should we say there is no escalating murder rate?
Keithos: Dillon, please don’t remind me why Carmona had to swear you in twice. Because I’m feeling like doing some swearing right now. Anyone else?
(National Security Minister Edmund Dillon sits down).
Dr Nyan: Dr Prime Minister, can I suggest that we revisit the budget and consider investing more money in at-risk communities, so as to give the young men and women more healthy and productive ways to burn off energy as well as increased self-esteem?
Maybe if Morvant Caledonia footballers, for instance, had more spending money than the average third form student, other young men would stop laughing at them and consider a healthier, safer and more wholesome career path?
Keithos: Thank you very much, Dolly. Can you go see if Maxie wants a cup of tea?
Fitzie: Don’t blush baby.
(Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Al-Rawi and Young stifle giggles. Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gasby Dolly leaves the room).
Stewie: (Raises hand) Dr Prime Minister?
Keithos: Yes, Stuart?
Stewie: Did you see my lunch kit?
(Imbert, Al-Rawi and Fitzgerald Hinds stifle giggles).
Keithos: You think this is a restaurant?! Sit down!
Fitzie: (In hushed tone) You mean a school cafeteria?
(More stifled giggles).
Keithos: Listen, this is the first major test of our administration. This is an opportunity to show our innovation, clarity of thought and precise execution. Now, we will prove to the populace that they are under new administration. And thank God for that!
(Loud thumping on desks and applause. Excited Sport Minister Darryl Smith kisses Housing Minister Marlene McDonald loudly on her cheek).
Marlene: (Blushing) Oh gosh boy. You’re not afraid that Michael Carew finds out?
Colm: Don’t worry Darryl. I hear Friday is his golf day. Right now, Michael Carew, Elvis and Tupac getting ready for tee off!
(Imbert, Al-Rawi, Hinds and Young giggle again).
Keithos: What’s that?
Faris: Honourable Dr Prime Minister, we are all euphoric and bolstered by your felicitous communique and cannot wait to be enlightened by your splendid new crime fighting assessment.
Fitzie: Boss, he says he cannot wait to hear your plan.
Keithos: So why he didn’t just say that? Steups.
(Silence as everyone leans forward in their chairs).
Keithos: Folks, it is time to fight fire with fire! They want to take over our streets? Well, we will take it back by force! Dillon, I am instructing you to put soldiers on the street to nullify the criminal forces once and for all.
The time for playing footsie with the criminal elements is over! Great is the PNM!
Fitzie: Ah-paya! That is brilliant boss! Everyone will love that.
Keithos: (Cooly sipping from a glass of water). That is why I am in this chair Fitzie. That’s why I am in this chair.
Faris: Ahem. Honourable Dr Prime Minister. If I might interject… I do recall that the People’s Partnership also pursued a consubstantial undertaking during the last administration.
Keithos: (Glares at Al-Rawi).
Fitzie: Boss, he is saying that the PP did the same thing.
Keithos: It is all about skill and execution, Faris. Notice how I put B***y in his place in Parliament the other day when he wanted to play wedding planner? You see me get in trouble like Smithy and Colm? This job is about foresight and intelligence. Tell Tanty watch and learn!
(Hinds gives Rowley a high-five).
Faris: Thank you, Dr Prime Minister. And, good Sir, might I be so precocious as to canvass from you the predetermined aftereffect of this mission?
Fitzie: Boss, he wants to know why you doing that.
Keithos: It isn’t bleeding obvious?! Soldiers with heavy artillery is a whole different kettle of fish for those gangsters. We will cower them into submission and command respect from the good and bad residents alike, thereby choking crime at its source. This isn’t rocket science you know.
(Imbert whispers to Young: ‘Like Keith was watching Universal Soldier again.’ Both men snicker).
Unidentified bald man: Prime Minister, with all due respect, are you assuming that soldiers will know what to do in these ‘hot spots’, simply because they carry guns? You do know they are not trained to police communities, maintain law and order or investigate crimes, right?
Isn’t asking soldiers to police ‘hot spots’ comparable to asking a carpenter to fix your fridge? Just because they both have tool belts, doesn’t mean they are interchangeable…
Keithos: Who the hell are you?!
Unidentified bald man: I am Mr Live Wire, Prime Minister. I am just trying to help…
Keithos: Get this damn man out of here! He thinks this is fun and games?! We’re trying to save lives here. Steups!
(The National Security Minister tosses Live Wire down a flight of stairs).
Faris: Dr Prime Minister, I do not wish to belabour the point…
Keithos: I bet that is the closest you ever came to labour in your entire life.
Faris: … but legislation does not procure soldiers with the capacity to search and arrest…
Keithos: The police will make the arrests.
Faris: So what will the soldiers do?
Keithos: Show we mean business and we are dead serious.
Faris: But are not the police hired to show criminals that we mean business?
Keithos: Soldiers will show we are doubly serious.
Faris: But soldiers are trained to kill…
Keithos: Good. Let us see some dead criminals for a change.
Faris: How will we ascertain that they are criminals?
Keithos: The police will point them out.
Faris: If the police know they are criminals, why not just arrest them?
(Murmurs from the room)
Keithos: Because, Faris, smart-arsed lawyers like yourself find legal technicalities to help them evade justice!
Faris: Dr Prime Minister, when you say ‘legal technicalities’, do you mean a lack of hard evidence?
Keithos: I have no intention of getting into any legal mumbo jumbo with you, Faris. I am trying to save the lives of honest citizens, not pass the bar!
Faris: Dr Prime Minister, if I may… (He begins reading from a sheet of paper)… ‘Listen to the countries who see soldier-police as a no-problem arrangement: Somalia, a country in which there is virtually no Government, Haiti, Israel, a State surrounded by enemies, virtually constantly at war; Afghanistan, Mexico, Venezuela… The Government is virtually accepting that the Police Service in Trinidad and Tobago is not in a position, or able to respond to the criminal elements…’
Keithos: Steups. Dillon, tell him again how short-staffed our Police Service is.
Dillon: We currently have 6,711 officers. But when you look at who is on leave and so on, the figure is closer to 2,000 active officers.
Faris: … ‘The problem with the Police Service cannot be solved by converting the army into police… If it is we only have 2,000 effective police officers in the standard establishment and we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on ineffective responses, why not spend that money on establishing in communities, municipal police that are effective in dealing with community policing problems?
‘They will know who the local people are and they will be more effectively dealing with them alongside the national police.
‘With all the best efforts so far, our Police Service is not in step with what the criminals are doing… Some of the skills required now in dealing with some of the crimes require special skill sets such as forensic accounting. The police service does not have the proper skill set to follow money through the system.
‘So what is wrong with hiring people who understand the international and the local financial system, to work with the police under the Commissioner of Police? We are not doing that. What we are doing is creating soldier police to put more boots on the ground and that does not change the gathering of evidence.’
Keithos: Faris, you’re an arse or a marble?! Teenagers getting dragged out of taxis and executed and you are talking about boosting the Police Service’s forensic accounting?!
Faris: ‘… One of the problems we have had over the years when police and soldiers go out, even on joint operations, is this antagonism between the two bodies, where police do not regard soldiers as police and soldiers are never happy doing police work, not getting paid while police getting overtime.
‘Soldiers get paid on a fixed arrangement and their time is available to be used 24 hours a day, no overtime and when they go out on joint patrols with police, while they are there with their fixed remuneration, police overtime running. This will have the effect on two ways: demoralise the police; and affect the Defence Force…’
Keithos: What the hell is that paper you’re reading from?!
Faris: Dr Prime Minister, everything I just read is out of the Hansard from your presentation in Parliament on Friday 8 March 2013 in response to Anand Ramlogan’s Defence Amendment Bill.
(Silence in the room).
Faris: If I might quote you further, Dr Prime Minister: ‘Where the police service is falling down, not only with the loss of witnesses and the loss of trust from the population; it is falling down with not having within its ranks and within its effort, proper investigative skills and tools so as to go after criminals and detect the crime and hold the perpetrator.
‘And until we, as a people, come to a point where our policing is delivering detection of crime and the apprehension of miscreants, and the successful prosecution and conviction of those persons, we are not impacting on crime at all…
‘We are doing things for show. We are politicising crime.’
(Hinds coughs nervously).
Faris: Let me go on: ‘Every time there is a spike in crime in certain areas, they get lockdowns—so they lock down and open up, so they last for a few days, lock down and open up and that is another crime plan.
‘Just a few months ago, we had Laventille under “boots” and the Government is telling us every street in Laventille is being patrolled by soldiers. Yes, that might be so, but is that sustainable? How long was it sustained for?
‘Do we have the manpower to make the crime plan, a crime plan where the plan is that soldiers will be on every street walking up and down Laventille?
‘That might look good, or sound good; it is not sustainable and largely ineffective because the criminals just wait out the soldiers because they know, very soon, they are going back to barracks; back to square one…’
(Al-Rawi pauses for impact).
Faris: So, Dr Prime Minister, in light of this speech, which is available to everyone online, how do you really propose we proceed?
(All eyes in the room turn to Rowley, who stiffens in his seat. Rowley gets off his chair and paces the floor with hands clasped behind his back. Then, dramatically, he turns to face his Cabinet and slams his first on the desk).
Keithos: This time, we will keep the soldiers on the street. Permanently!
(The room erupts in cheers. Smith kisses McDonald again. Someone covers Young with a blanket and momentarily holds him outside a window).
Fitzie: You ketch them boss! Excellent plan!
Keithos: Faris, make yourself useful for once and call Maxie. And tell him don’t mess up this announcement eh… As a matter of fact, forget Maxie. Dillon and I will announce this ourselves.
The people should hear this from their prime minister. Great idea, eh Dillon?
Dillon: Yes, Prime Minister.
Editor’s Note: This column is pure satire and all conversations are faked. No offence is meant at parties named; although they probably deserve it.
And, of course, our thanks to former British sitcom: Yes, Prime Minister.