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Daly Bread: From Bolsonaro to Griffith, are we tackling crime from the wrong end?

Approximately one year ago, shortly after his appointment, Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith likened the criminal elements to ‘cockroaches’ and added that those cockroaches should be ‘crushed’.

The Commissioner has company. The following report appeared last week in the UK Guardian newspaper: “Brazil’s far-right President, Jair Bolsonaro, has said he hopes criminals will ‘die in the streets like cockroaches’ as a result of hardline legislation he is pushing to shield security forces and citizens who shoot alleged offenders from prosecution.”

Photo: Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro
(Copyright: AP News)

He reportedly added: “These guys [criminals] are going to die in the streets like cockroaches [if such protections are approved]—and that’s how it should be.”

I have little doubt that in this context, whether so intended or not, ‘cockroaches’ is taken as a reference mostly to young black men. It is an irreparable stigmatisation of persons residing in certain communities, as well as of the communities themselves, regardless of individual merit or positives in the history of such communities.

Regarding merit, I have repeatedly pointed out, for example, that our disadvantaged communities comprise many persons of enormous scientific talent who invented and perfected and now maintain the steel drum. Its music now captivates the world, although undervalued in its own home—even by those who should naturally be moved to support it and devise policy initiatives for its further development and marketing.

There has been reckless neglect properly to invest in and develop our music and performing arts talent and to reshape the education system so that it provides equality of opportunity outside of traditional grammar school subjects, for which not everyone has the aptitude.

For more than a decade I have pleaded for the necessary investment so that there would be more music and fewer guns.

Arguably governments have seen those in the disadvantaged communities, maybe not as cockroaches, but as ants, voting ants to be led to the ballot box, following the sugar trail of make-work programmes and unaccounted for steelband Panorama dollars, unrefined by any social development component or desire to lift the excellent out of the mass to the highest pinnacles.

Photo: Arranger Carlton “Zanda” Alexander (left) leads the Despers Steel Orchestra.
(Copyright Steelpan Authority)

My comrade Reggie Dumas, as usual, has asked all the right questions of those bemoaning Afro-Trinbagonian underachievement. He did so in a column in the Newsday on Tuesday last. Here are some of his questions.

“Have party politics, and the accretion of power at the top, played any part in this? Has a syndrome of dependence been created and encouraged, and flourishing? Have too many black minds been conditioned not to develop potential but rather to rely on, from one generation to the next, on state handouts, either CEPEP and URP employment or large government contracts?”

The answer to those questions will reveal that many of those bemoaning underachievement and indulging in visionless speechifying are those principally responsible for the underachievement.

The water too sweet at the top. The big pappy sugar rush detaches our rulers from reality, some of whom, themselves succumb to negatively profiling ordinary citizens, the very ones whom they have horribly misled into dependency.

Labels like ‘cockroaches’ are symptomatic of negative profiling but certainly have not deterred the criminal elements whose awesome power and untouched control, even inside the politics, have been blatantly revealed in the last few weeks.

Photo: A young man kisses a high powered weapon.

Comrade Reggie also touched on the rejection of ‘dark’ complexion. Commentators say that such rejection is common in Brazil in the course of the struggle between those within the gated communities and those outside the gates.

There is reportedly heavy firepower within the favelas of Brazil and regular gun battles take place there between the military police and the gangsters.

Is that where we are heading, perhaps at the behest of big business, without any attempt at reforming the award of State contracts and abandoning all pretence of any other form of social development policy?

Meanwhile, the judiciary is at risk of becoming a Kerngate, as a result of newly-revealed alleged dealings with one Kern Romero. Another lame media release evading the core of the new allegations was issued in the name of the judiciary.

Are these evasive releases truly the collective view of the judges or the output of a controlling clique?

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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