Today on what should have been Carnival Sunday, I find myself in a place where darkness and light have fiercely contested for attention throughout the preceding week.
The contest between darkness and light has been triggered, on the dark side, by the murder of Andrea Bharatt; and, on the light side, by the attention which the performing arts demanded of us, despite the ban on the usual Carnival gatherings, in presenting show after show.
As heart-rending as they are, it is difficult to write anything specific about the murders of Andrea Bharatt or Ashanti Riley when so many of my columns throughout the years have mourned the loss of murder victims and focused on the impunity with which murder is committed, as a result of slackness in police work.
I have also repeatedly attacked the ruling class for their callous indifference to the murders and the impunity factor.
One example of my persistence was a column published in March 2004, when I referenced the case of Maria Greenidge. Aged 18, she was beaten to death and robbed of TT$15, two bracelets and her sneakers—on her way home from pan practice with Couva Joylanders Steel Band that February. Her body was dumped in a cane field.
I complained then, nearly 17 years ago, that: ‘We are at the point where another person’s death is just a statistic, an occasion to say again that we must pass some more laws.’
In that column I also wrote that ‘instead of implementing a social development policy, once the big-ups have the illusion of peace, crime and the horrible underlying social conditions will not matter politically’.
Subsequently, when Dana Seetahal SC, was murdered 10 years later in 2014, I described again, as I had done long before, the keeping of vigils on those occasions ‘when murder becomes too shocking to bear without a short-lived collective response in the form of prayers, candles, bouquets and spontaneous peace marches’.
It is a long time we have been weeping over violent crime without meaningful results.
Throughout the 18 years of these weekly columns, one of my other persistent themes has been analysis of the negative of a ruling class and its favoured satellites, entrenched for a period of five years at a time—through the imperfect practice of a democracy that provides little else meaningful other than participation in general elections every five years or so.
The members of the ruling class may change from time to time but they have developed a shoddy institutional presence and an inadequate form of engagement with the people, relying principally on the visceral race feelings they stir up at election time. None of our serious problems, including violent crime, receive anything more than short term reactive measures that peter out into nothingness.
The satellites are content with the status quo because the ‘contact’ backdoor is always open. By contrast, those neither well placed nor given to sucking-up, have instead to suck the proverbial salt unless they can find a contact or succumb to partaking in the machinations of tribal politics.
It is the pleasure of the satellites to support the political establishment in calling for more laws while, like the politicians, they ignore the underlying socio-economic conditions.
These disadvantaging conditions are reflected in several crucial ways, including the deadly risk to women of travelling in a haphazardly regulated transportation environment.
An equally persistent theme of mine is the abundance of vibrant performing arts in our country, which present an unrecognised potential for economic diversification.
Our artistes have, in the words of MX Prime last week, demonstrated that ‘without a Carnival we are still relevant’.
Happily, even Pan Trinbago shook a leg into the pay-for-view world.
By their entrepreneurial work—producing around the pandemic restrictions up to and including shows on the Carnival days—these artistes, promoters, and film makers and their resolute support, like WACK 90.1 FM, have emphatically restated the rationale for investment in the music and entertainment industry.
They are badly needed exemplars of the delivery of change.