Last week I examined the promise of Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, that there will be charges and “big fish being taken down in the next set of operations before year’s end.”
I expressed skepticism about this promise for two reasons, one of which was my concern that the recent charges brought against two foreign nationals—believed to be the heads of an operation involving the sexual exploitation of nineteen Latinas, some underage—might quietly disappear.
This concern was rooted in our history of indifference to the activities of the financiers and facilitators of crime in the super profits category. It was also rooted in what happens when law enforcement intrudes on ‘big people party’—a scenario to which I return below.
First, I must acknowledge that I missed a report in the Trinidad Express concerning a further bid by one of the foreign nationals for bail in the Latina case, in the form of an appeal to the Court of Appeal against the refusal of bail in two lower Courts. This application was opposed by the State and again refused on Tuesday last.
Shortly after publication of my column, Minister Young messaged me concerning the state’s firm stance in the case and later provided me with a copy of the newspaper report of the proceedings in the bail appeal.
Accordingly, I happily accept that, within the appropriate boundaries of his Ministry, the Minister laudably has the best of intentions in respect of the dire need to expand the reach of criminal prosecution beyond near exclusive pursuit of the foot soldier criminals and into the upscale communities where the Latinas were housed and where drug business goes on.
However, the vested interests and obstacles in the Minister’s path are formidable. As repeatedly set out in these columns, murder and other serious crimes can be committed with impunity because successive governments have presided over failed systems of law enforcement characterised by a woeful crime detection rate. In addition, the financiers and facilitators of the drug and human trafficking trade are rarely the focus of official attention.
In fact, many of the points advanced to the Court of Appeal in support of the grant of bail in the Latina case reflect dodgy immigration procedures—which are accessed with suspicious ease—as well as significant networks, which underpin the major criminal operations of drug, firearms and human trafficking.
Another obstacle to bringing law enforcement into better repute is the dangerous intersection of politics and big business. Citizens legitimately question whether some of the super profits made from criminal enterprise or manipulation of the state enterprises morph into campaign finance.
Do these money manipulations provide a pathway to interventions of friends in high places and a measure of protection against the application of objective justice?
The late Selwyn Richardson was known for his reforming zeal. While still a PNM Minister, he once told me that the persons who most troubled him were some of his own political colleagues.
And what do events unfolding in the past week tell us?
They reconfirm that nowhere in Trinidad is safe from gunmen killing—or attempting to kill—in broad daylight; or from what a headline in the Express described as Wild Wild Gangs, with residents stating that the gangsters can do what they want in the affected areas.
Another report referring to the rescue of six more Latinas, stated that ‘investigators believe they have cracked another human trafficking ring’. The presence of a special unit of police known as Special Operations Response Team (SORT) in these operations and others is high profile. Another report concerning SORT’s operations in Central Trinidad describes in-fighting within the Police Service between SORT and others.
Does this tell us that vested interests are being disturbed?
Meanwhile, as the underlying crime iceberg surfaces and now that upscale areas are taking up a belated place in the crime reports, vigilance will be required to see whether justice will genuflect to upscale types.
Until there is reformed ganja legislation—in stark contrast to the continuing dread treatment of others in possession of spliffs—will there be ease-ups for upscale types, such as low bail, laying of minor charges and lenient sentences?