Daly Bread: Trying to find the light in dark days of murder, crime and state neglect

In a powerful editorial last Monday on the occasion of Divali, the Trinidad Express newspaper urged that we look around and see Trinidad and Tobago as it really is: “a country carried by the goodness of its people and their love for this place that we call home”.

The writer based this encouragement on an assertion that: “Trinidad and Tobago has a proven capacity for resilience that could help see us through the darkness and into the light. Above all, we have each other and a culture of community that could help carry us across the finish line.”

A young girl lights deyas in Trinidad.

In stark contrast to the hopeful tone of the editorial, the front page of that same Monday’s edition of the paper reported as a “massacre” what was then the latest fatal public gunning down of four citizens—one of whom was a boy aged three—on the way home from a wedding.

In total, six persons, all of whom were in the same car, were shot. The incident took place on a main road and the gunfire came from another car that drove up alongside that of the victims.

The following days were just as dark as the murders rose by two, three or four per day—a few short of 500 for the year so far and rapidly surpassing the comparative figures for the same period last year.

The locations were varied. The methodology was nearly always the same: drive by or walk up and kill.

A murder scene…

The killers are rarely caught. Nowhere is safe, day or night.

The variety of the locations is significant particularly when it is also reported that the number of violent home invasions is continuously rising and is spread over a wide variety of districts, in the vicinity of 450 invasions so far this year. There were 597 such invasions in 2021.

With respect to the business community, all of the babbling now about the crushing effect of crime on business is 20 years too late, as this situation is the foreseeable outcome of unenlightened clinging to the status quo over all of those years when government largesse and overpriced contracts were sharing.

The elites supinely bought into the theories that death by murder could be dismissed as “collateral damage” and that crime could be suppressed by targeting Laventille/ Morvant (Patrick Manning-led PNM time).

TTPS Guard and Emergency officers during an exercise in Sea Lots in July 2020.
(via TTPS)

The declaration of a state of emergency, which was non-strategic to the point of frivolity (Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership time), was accepted and, more recently, many approved of the killing of “cockroaches”.

Frivolous in conception though it was, the UNC-led state of emergency had serious consequences when it was arbitrarily deployed against certain communities only.

Continued abuse of the coercive power of the State to pressure certain communities, disregard of massive socio-economic division and degradation and the overwhelming influence of the “contact” system have doomed us to the instability that now prevails.

Police officers square off with Morvant/Laventille residents after protests against the police killings of Joel Jacobs, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond on 27 June 2020.
(Copyright Trinidad Express)

There is little objective justice in any of our governance. One offender against objective justice that needs closer scrutiny than it receives is the Ministry of Social Development and Family Affairs.

What social development is actually spearheaded by that Ministry? It seems principally to be a grant-giving Ministry from which precious food cards allegedly go missing from an unlocked desk drawer and in which other irregularities that trouble the Auditor General occur while the genuinely indigent get blanked.

We are reaping the whirlwind of neglect, unfairness and consequent resentment. The capacity of communities, not within the gates of privilege, to push back against the prevailing darkness is severely limited.

A woman responds to the fiery atmosphere during protests in Barrackpore in October 2021.

Despite saying that these are our darkest days, the Opposition has an equally severely limited capacity to relieve the darkness. One wonders whether the wailing elites are willing to squeeze the Opposition leadership hard enough to force change within it, in order that we may have a reasonable political contest between policies with the capacity to drive away some of the criminality and other darkness.

Saddled with a practice of politics that involves mostly name-calling and reactive, foolish and insulting deflections when things go wrong, trying to find the light may result in a futile search.

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