In 2005, Steve Jobs addressed the new graduates of Stanford University. He advised: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
It is easy to miss the connections in our rancorous society amid the struggles of dealing with Covid-19. But our future will not be pretty if we do not stop and reflect on what has unfolded to take corrective steps.
Without taking definitive actions to support what works well in our society, we will end up in a completely lawless place.
The adage ‘a fish rots from the head’ is worthy of consideration. While it is fashionable to blame our young black men for crime, we need to reflect on politicians’ role in facilitating the environment. Neither of the major political parties is guilt-free.
In 2013, we had the spectacle of serious allegations being raised about the actions of leading UNC figures in the wake of the construction of the Duncan Street Police Post. The UNC, in turn, accused the PNM of hiring the same individual’s company to construct toilets.
The bizarre 2017 photo at President’s House with a PNM MP and ‘a person of interest’ as her invitee stunned even the Prime Minister.
Fast forward to the last month, a sitting cabinet minister accused the Opposition activists of sabotage in the Beetham Gardens area.
There are rumours afoot about the skirmishing and nightly gunshots in East Port-of-Spain and the underlying political alliances. Have both parties bought into the reasoning of the past attorney general Anand Ramlogan, “if these people do not get work, what will they do and how will they live? Will it result in a further spike in crime?”
Do they fail to realise that the funds legitimise the characters involved and provide a stream of money to influence outcomes? The chilling exchange is ‘gain/stay in power for impunity by gang leaders’.
The 2010 Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke story and the Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s resignation are instructive. In May 2010, once the order was given to arrest Dudus, 73 civilians and three security servicemen were killed in the fighting.
We should note that Dudus prospered under both political parties.
Our days of scarcity that lie ahead will amplify, not dampen, the range of adverse outcomes. As was noted relative to Guyana recently: ‘distribution of oil rents to favoured segments of society, and the resulting culture of consumerism do little to ensure long-term economic development.
‘When oil revenues shrink in the downturn of the cycle, unemployment and reduced rent redistributions feed anger, just when the state’s ability to spend on security and population appeasement is waning.’
Denyse Renne’s reports on the Stanley John’s findings are chilling; Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ captures our feeling of a never-ending tale. When will we feel safe?
But our past Police Command resembles Spielberg’s ‘Pinky and the Brain’ cartoon. The ‘plan for world domination’ could never succeed since Pinky spent too much time watching movies/ cosplaying John Wick.
In the end, the brilliant Brain ended up with a whole armoury and a best friend who got large contracts.
The unspoken part of the infamous ‘Scoon Affair’ is the casual way in which off-duty police officers reportedly retrieved guns to do a private job.
Then, a suspended SORT officer was in a shoot-out with police officers in Champs Fleurs. Reportedly, he had a police jacket and utility belt with magazine holsters. What’s going on?
Bang on schedule, the spotlight turns on the Supermarket Association. This organisation’s head supported the issuance of firearm users’ licences.
They are entitled to apply for gun licences; no worries there. But at the same time, Minister Donna Cox has been frantically seeking help stemming the fraud within the $358 million Covid relief programme.
In October 2020, she claimed 5,000 ‘blatant attempts to mislead and defraud’ the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. By December 2020, the Supermarket Association promised to help; in June 2021, the then Acting Police Commissioner vowed to prosecute.
We now have the theft of 1,836 social welfare cheques and long tears for the socially vulnerable. But the supermarket owners were reportedly earlier troubled by the same type of fraud. Why the lack of enthusiasm until now?
‘Persons who are driving luxury cars have food cards, and this cannot be. We’re going to bring in people who really need it and take out those who don’t…’
But now the claim is more specific re the brand of car. It is a Mercedes Benz!
How is it that nobody gets caught red-handed? Or is this mamaguy talk? Do we have the same problem as the UK, where the conclusion was that ‘the scheme was vulnerable to abuse by individuals and by participants in organised crime’?
The very odd story of a TT$8 million drug bust involving four Chinese nationals surfaced briefly. That drug is not sold on our streets, so where is the end market?
How did the Chinese get here? Were they a holdover from those engaged in gaming machines that littered our country? Or are they recent arrivals?
How about the 27 human trafficking victims and the Port-of-Spain character held on his way to Colombia? Who would have put a Duke Street man together with a man from Colombia? Are the human trafficking incidents not taking place in the South? Why should he get on a plane to Colombia?
More questions than answers! But the police have been doing meticulous work. Good for them and us!
In a CARIFORUM report, we learned this: ‘Those police officers also provide patrol and security for the safe houses where the women are kept before being distributed across Trinidad and Tobago in trucks, cars, maxi-taxis and vans.’
According to Dr Pierre, the lead researcher, a local constable was interviewed about the allegations made by the Venezuelan trafficker. The constable denied he was ever a member of any human trafficking gang.
Questioned why a known trafficker would have his phone number, the constable stated that he did not know why and that having someone’s phone number in one’s possession does not constitute a crime.
The constable was unaware that the trafficker had shown Dr Pierre a series of correspondences related to human trafficking activities between Venezuela and T&T.
In response, the then Police Commissioner affirmed: ‘South Western Division deliberately turns a blind eye to these illegal activities. There is a very big market here, and there is a sick demand; there is also child prostitution and child pornography.’
He said he was trying to implement systems to prevent this growing problem.
Therefore, why the clutching of pearls by southerners outraged by the South Park shooting? In the latest report about gangs, a quarter of all (50) operates south and east of Chaguanas.
Gang violence is more visible, but the reality is that it is the tip of the iceberg. The national illicit white collar enterprise is concealed through intricate and ingenious means. Gang violence makes flashy news headlines, but gangs primarily operate below the radar.
What we may be witnessing, in some instances, is the ill-disciplined gang members going off script and trying to make a hustle. The increased use of arms (accompanied by access to motor vehicles) increases the likelihood of lethal encounters. (Making sense of murders: Urbanik and Roks, 2021)
It appears as though transnational gangs have entered the local scene in recent times. Vancouver, Canada, has valuable insights about shootings in public spaces.
Thankfully, the increased apparent collaboration between the DPP and the present police command is positive. The seemingly increased Interpol activity creates optimism. The bestirring of the Judiciary and its fearless judgments are an encouragement.
Will we, the citizens, raise our voices in a non-partisan manner to save our country?