Hilarant! Haiti is sorry for T&T as local crime mess creates Caribbean tragicomedy

Full circle. Just about 30 years ago, David Rudder was singing “Haiti, I’m sorry.”

Nowadays, however, my Haitian friend is sorry for us. And all he needed to sum up the situation of those of us who, trying to escape from the UNC, voted for the PNM was four words.

“Kouri lapli,” he said with a shrug, “tonbe larivyè. (Is like if yuh run from the rain and yuh jump in the river). Vous me faîtes pitié. (Ah sorry fuh allyuh.)”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC.
(Copyright Power102fm)

I couldn’t help but chuckle. Crime, I know, is no laughing matter; murder even less so. But nowadays in Keith Rowley’s T&T, it seems that if you’re not laughing, you’re crying.

Like the proverbial thief in the night, crime has stolen the limelight. It is not just all over the media, it is everywhere in the country.

MAYHEM, the Guardian proclaimed on Thursday, following that with TERROR PLOT on Friday. The Friday Express’ version of the same story was CRIME CONSPIRACY. And, above it, a Page One Editorial.

Here on Wired868 on Sunday, Noble Philip had this to offer:

With the two shootings in East Port of Spain and the mystery of the San Fernando ‘kidnappings’, the uncertainty of life in our country is writ large. Fear stalks. 

(…) Living is precarious and we are stuck here with the random intrusion of violent crime into our daily lives.

On the same day, Martin Daly referred to ‘rampant murder’ in his opening paragraph and again in paragraph five.

Photo: A body with a toe-tag.

Using the next two paragraphs to recall a prime ministerial response for his readers, he adds this in paragraph eight:

(…) bodies are dropping every day (…) The government simply does not know how to face the music on the everyday occurrence of murders, the majority of which are committed with impunity.

If Stuart Young, Rowley’s hand-picked Minister of National Security, had answers to give us, would he have been on TV sounding as if he was clutching at straws? Who is it in our society, he asked, that stands to gain from conveying the impression that there is rampant crime? Impression?

Almost 540 violent deaths in one year is an impression? An illusion?

Don’t make me laugh, Mr Minister of National Security. As the Express editorial says, this is a time for leaders to step up, not jokers. Or bluffers. Innuendo and rhetorical questions won’t make crime go away or deflect attention away from official incompetence and impotence. What might help is if you offered some serious answers to your own question instead of merely promising, not for the first time, that more will be revealed soon.

A mid-week headline in one of the dailies said, Another triple murder in Arima, sending a shiver rapidly down my spine. Less than three weeks into January, we’re already on pace not just to exceed the near record 538 people who were killed last year but to break the 550 mark posted in 2008. Truth be told, I don’t remember a time when the country felt anywhere near as scary as now, in 2020.

Photo: Soldiers pose for a photograph while conducting their duties outside the Red House in Port of Spain during the 1990 insurrection.

And I was here for Abu Bakr and the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen in 1990. And for the Black Power and Shah and Lassalle and the Army Mutiny in 1970 and the NUFF years that followed when Randy Burroughs sought to fight fire with fire. But he couldn’t beat them, town say, so…

Manifestly impotent—didn’t the Prime Minister admit as much?—today’s authorities have again left matters largely in the hands of their CoP of choice. Like many members of the public, they still have, it seems, complete confidence in the efficacy of the methods employed by the current commissioner of police.

They have remained confident that, in spite of the abundant evidence to the contrary, the appointment of Gary Griffith as CoP in 2018 had set in motion a train of events that would eventually rid us of the crime problem once and for all.

Griffith, remember, promised us less talk and more action. What we have been getting is a little less talk from Griffith and much more action from his armed policemen.

When three young people were shot dead in Arima, including a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old; fingers were pointed not for the first time at ‘fake cops’.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith poses over dying suspect. Image blurred as it may be disturbing to some readers.

My francophone friend listened carefully in silence while I tried to explain the current situation: the country’s general disappointment with how little Rowley and the PNM delivered after promising so much, the recent explosion in police killings and the MoNS’ potentially puzzling comments.

When I told him how, in a previous incarnation, Griffith had referred to ‘cockroaches’, his eyes lit up.

“Voilà!” he exclaimed, amused at his own cleverness, “Ravet pa ni raison douvant poulice!”

The creole proverb, which translates into ‘Cockroach eh ha no right before fowl,’ runs thus: Ravet pa ni raison douvant poule. 

But he did not find at all amusing the PM’s admission that his government was in over its head and could not cope.

“Il a dit que le government pète plus haut que leur cul?” he asked, incredulous. (Rough translation: He admit that the government doh know it ass from it elbow?”)

Photo: National Security Minister and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and MP Stuart Young (right) has a word with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Trinidad Newsday)

Eh ben, chez nous, on dit, Si bef pas connaite lageu derriere i, i pas valé graine zabricot.” (Rough translation: Well, in Haiti we does say. If bison didn’t know the size ah he cacahole, he woulda never swallow no zaboca seed.)

What, David Rudder, do you make of that?

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About Earl Best

Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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One comment

  1. It’s not rocket science. Putting a solider in charge of the police or a ministry is going to create a war response by the state which will lead to a rise in violent criminality. But people cried out for a strong man because they think violence fixes violence. It’s like we haven’t learned anything from 500 years of violent Caribbean history.

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