The government has called the election for 10 August, plainly in order to have it before the unrest which gripped us last week gets worse and erases the goodwill earned through the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday last, there was widespread unrest in or near several disadvantaged communities. These are communities that PNM administrations have routinely neglected in terms of sustainable social development, despite their steadfast voting loyalty to that party.
As it was put in a voice note circulating on social media, they ‘playing political games wid we all we life’.
These are some of the same communities whose residents were roughed-up and oppressively imprisoned during the UNC-dominated People’s Partnership government state of emergency, declared in August 2011.
Before nightfall on Tuesday, the Police Service issued a verbose media release, claiming in paragraph three of twenty-five as follows: ‘Intelligence has revealed that this was an orchestrated plot that was led by several gang members, whereby the intention was to use the shooting of the three young men a few days ago, as a front to cover the planned plot to shut down the country.’
At least the Police Service did not join in the fantasy of the Minister of National Security that the protestors were paid. Does the minister really think that Trinis are so dunce that for a few dollars they will face armed policemen and run the risk of apparently dying from a police bullet like pregnant Ornella Greaves, aged 30, in the course of one of last Tuesday’s protests?
“Who stands to gain?” asked the Minister of National Security on Tuesday morning, repeating a prior refrain about violent crime.
He was driven by the partisan need to insinuate that the people—even if they have a valid cause to protest—only respond to incitement and were not themselves passionately motivated by the police involved killings.
In 2011, then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was quoted in the UK Guardian newspaper as follows: “When the State of Emergency was declared by His Excellency, it was in response to intelligence received from the security agencies which we cannot share with the population but I can assure you we averted a crisis.”
The ‘intelligence’ revealed an ‘immediate threat and endangerment of public safety in Trinidad and Tobago’.
I put these statements side by side to illustrate a mindset, common to both major political parties, public officials and the bourgeoisie alike. That mindset does not permit any admission that the deplorable social conditions are a significant contributor to the recurring criminality and unrest present in so many areas of Trinidad.
It is politically expedient to ignore the fact that successive governments have nonchalantly allowed guns and drugs to pass into those communities—no doubt to the considerable profit of financiers and rogue politicians and other public officials.
That mindset is also fixated on insistence that the protests are not driven simply by angry reactions on the part of residents, fuelled by the injustices and systemic inequalities under which they live, currently exacerbated by Covid economic pressure.
Another fact that is stubbornly deflected is that recent community protests have been genuinely triggered by the death of residents in those communities in police involved killings believed to be executions. The protests are said to be incited or plotted either by criminals who want to use the residents as cover for criminality or by politicians who are lusting for government office and believe that tactics of destabilisation will lower the ratings of those holding office.
My disgust at the scorn with which these communities are described is well known. The passions of these communities have been made more intense by inflammatory language directed at them, which incidentally would go to motive—if policemen involved in one of these killings were put on trial.
As vividly expressed in the voice note circulating on Tuesday last: “We poor people, allyuh don’t recognise us as people. We is insects to allyuh, cockroaches. When sometimes cockroach does land, everybody does run outside.”
For this socio-economic breakdown, significant civic culpability is attributable to our indifference. The political culpability rests on both major political parties. How will this change?