With hoopla and fanfare, a Commissioner of Police and a new Minister of National Security have been appointed within days of each other.
The Commissioner is Gary Griffith, a former military captain and a Minister of National Security when the Opposition UNC was last in power. The Minister of National Security is now Stuart Young, a Member of Parliament, who has been a diligent but over-loaded and over-exposed Minister.
Shallow statements have been made about Griffith and Young, the latter as “being probably the best man available for the job.” Commentators, like Reginald Dumas, have less emotively pointed out that more than blind belief in the capabilities of particular individuals is required.
In previous columns, for decades, I have laid out the underlying conditions, including the political ones, that have placed us in the precarious states described in the editorials—to which I refer below—and inevitably led to our current state of murderous blood soaking where motor vehicle theft at gunpoint is now routine.
Subject to the hope, expressed at the end of this column, I fear that the outcome of the Young and Griffith tenures may amount to being as unproductive as that disastrous charge of the light brigade, which occurred during the Crimean war.
Six hundred men, part of the British Light Cavalry, were sent to ride into “a valley of death” in which half of them died or were maimed. This occurred despite the fact that the British Cavalry at the time comprised brave men, “probably the best men for the job.”
Historians are said to regard the infamous charge as an example of the failure that follows a lack of sound intelligence as to the disposition of the enemy and of clear orders from the top.
One wonders in accordance with what orders—in the form of collective policy objectives—will Young and Griffith work?
The top in this case is the Cabinet and National Security Council, both headed by the Prime Minister.
It is not surprising therefore that a Trinidad Express editorial, on Tuesday last, advised as follows: “With new leaders at the helm of the Police Service and the Ministry of National Security, the Government’s next order of business should be to unveil its strategic plan for taking back the country from criminals. More than the appointment of individuals, it is strategy that will reveal the Government’s understanding of the challenge and its plan for dealing with escalating murder, widening gang violence and nationwide insecurity.”
This is not new advice. Twenty-four years earlier, an Express editorial published in July 1994, addressed to then Prime Minister Manning—the murder is “collateral damage” man—exhorted as follows: “While the carnage of innocent citizens continues, consultations and meetings are all good in their place but we have now had more than our share of them. What the country needs is an all out attack on the criminal element which appears to be running wild in every direction. We hope that even now you have the courage to act.”
Some years later, in 2001, after the then series of brutal murders, editorials stated the country was “falling apart” and “unravelling.”
Let me say it again: successive Governments—as well as the issuers of shallow statements—are guilty of repeatedly and conveniently ignoring critical underlying socio-economic conditions and the intersection of politics, trafficking profits, corruption and campaign finance. That is why we are in a criminal shambles and Young and Griffith may well be riding into a valley of failure.
However, the Young and Griffith duo have some advantages. The Prime Minister says the Government accepted Griffith because he stood against an infamous corrupt sporting scheme. Young is said to have has the Prime Minster’s ear on the pursuit of some corruption matters to which other Cabinet members are not privy.
Between them as former and current National Security Ministers they will have inside knowledge from intelligence reports of who are the traffickers, financiers and the compromised.
One hopes therefore the new duo will not be restrained from using that knowledge and from going past the big fish boundaries.