Anyone with a copy of The Daly Commentaries or a good memory will know that these columns have repeatedly condemned the dreadful expression “collateral damage”.
On Monday last, that phrase was disparaged in an editorial in this newspaper entitled “Crossing the 200-murder mark.”
Unfortunately, it is “more than a few years ago” that former Prime Minister Patrick Manning shrugged off the fatal killing of a young woman outside Movie Towne, describing her death as collateral damage. It is actually 15 years ago, in 2003, that we were first encouraged by Manning to shrug off murder.
I used to write a lot about the subject but I have slacked off because so few, other than relatives of the murder victims, seem to care except when the murder victim is regarded as well placed in our society.
Several columns have been retrospectives for those for whom the bell has tolled. These columns have also attacked the fact that shootings are done with absolute impunity in broad daylight.
Last week, a bank worker was shot outside the front door of his place of work at eight in the morning in San Fernando. Happily, he has survived so far and we all wish him well. Christopher Mohammed, the young Uber driver, was not so lucky.
The editorial to which I refer, made reference to “the most stunning fact—the Government’s apparent dis-interest in tackling the problem of crime.” That is a dis-interest (sic) shared by all of our governments since the rash of murders began in the mid-90’s.
The current Opposition’s main strategy against crime when last in office was an ill-considered state of emergency, in which big fish were left conspicuously alone. Subsequently, many other persons have been collecting damages for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment at significant cost to the country, as we were reminded on Wednesday by yet another High Court award of damages.
There was one major omission in the editorial review of our current murder situation. To redress the omission, it is necessary only to repeat a few sentences from previous columns: “There is a cultural factor that militates against turning the society around. It is the silence and passivity of the validating elites in the face of outrageous events.
“There is random mortality for all and the authorities and their sycophants sleep well, wave their rags, shovel up the freeness and put on grovelling shows of respect that last as long as they can get some advantage for their business or themselves.”
The above diagnoses date back to 2003. Ironically, the bank worker was shot at a corner known as High Street and Penitence Street. There is no need for shooters to hide away from the High Streets or in the dark. They will not be apprehended and they know that the majority of those who can make a difference do not care about ordinary victims.
Last Monday’s editorial concluded that what we have today is “a Police Service increasingly unable to protect and serve all T&T.” This is the predictable outcome of the indifference of fifteen years.
By an odd coincidence, I thanked the then commanding officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment, Colonel Edmund Dillon, in July 2004, when he secured the return of a Galil assault rifle, apparently stolen from Camp Ogden for a nefarious purpose.
Dillon is no longer an operative in the field. He is now our Minister of National Security and toes Government’s line that the prevention of crime and the arrest of offenders are matters for the Police in which, constitutionally, the government cannot interfere. However, he did concede, in a recent television interview, that the responsibility of his ministry for crime was “policy” and “strategy.”
It is plain for all to see that current mechanisms for disciplinary control over policemen are lacking, as is the capacity to “enforce standards of conduct on such officers.” Existing constitutional and statutory provisions to take care of these vital matters have failed.
What new policy or strategy does the government or Opposition intend to devise to redress this?
That is certainly an unanswered policy question. It will probably be ducked for another 15 disastrous years.