A reader, who enjoys the historical perspective contained in many of these columns, asked me recently whether there is a program that I use to source those of my columns written many years ago.
The answer is that as a weekly columnist writing in the information age for 21 years, I have the benefit of electronic data storage. That benefit has a sad component because, as the mamaguy about violent crime continues, the record shows how futile crime talks between government and opposition have been in the past.
The record also shows how many times over a period of decades editorial writers in all the daily newspapers pronounced on “the dangerous trend” of violent crime, according to the Trinidad Guardian, July 1996.
Two years before that, in July 1994, the Trinidad Express newspaper asked: “what and where is the plan? All we get are excuses and complaints about the enormity of the problem.”
That editorial concluded: “what the country needs is an all-out attack on the criminal element which appears to be running wild in every direction.”
Currently, editors also emphasise that the drug trade is at the core of the problem. I quoted last week from a recent editorial in the Trinidad Express newspaper entitled In the jaws of the drug trade.
Subsequently, the Trinidad Guardian added to the record as follows: “It is time for a wider campaign to weed out the people in league with the criminals, some functioning at different levels in the national security apparatus, others in positions of financial and legal influence and those in society in general.”
My commentaries to this effect have been clear since 2003.
Our situation seems plainly similar to that of Ecuador which was a peaceful country. I spent some days in Quito, its capital, many years ago. That country is now reportedly traumatized by a massive crime wave producing record numbers of killings and drugs seized in a single year.
The New York Times summarised the Ecuadorian situation this way: “Children recruited by gangs. Prisons as hubs for crime. Neighborhoods consumed by criminal feuds. And all this chaos financed by powerful outsiders with deep pockets and lots of experience in the global drug business.”
I am not confident that the proposed crime talks recognise the uncomfortable breadth of our problem here. It is entirely naïve to believe that this is a problem to be solved only by legislative intervention.
On a brighter note, I intended to return to the subject of the support required to sustain the development of pan music within Trinidad and Tobago.
The stimulus was related to Invaders, one of the oldest steelbands in the country and parent to many innovators in pan music, and the news that Shell Trinidad and Tobago had purchased for Invaders the land next door to their yard at 147 Tragarete Road.
That leads to my Invaders fish broth story and my assistance towards Invaders’ occupation of Tragarete Road. I will tell it another time.
When I examined what I wrote about pan and the Invaders, to see whether I told the fish broth story, I found a column published in July 2004 describing the beauty of music played on pan, cuatro (Robert Munro) and saxophone (Francis Prime) on a moonlight night in a successful Invaders-promoted concert.
I contrasted that success with Parliament’s earlier failure in July 2004, after a flurry of activity, to pass police reform bills for the purpose of more effective management of the Police Service.
It appeared that the government and opposition negotiated for a revised management structure for the Police Service in bad faith.
At present, the stage is set for more futility. The exchanges in the public domain between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about the proposed meeting on crime contain partisan political barbs.
These confirm that the public interest and, in particular, our salvation from pervasive random acts of violence and from “the unbearable pain” is not a priority for these shopworn leaders and their wealthy backers.
Given the ceaseless, decades old, bitter kicksin’ in and out of Parliament by both sides can we expect a sudden change in attitudes and productive leadership? Who they fooling?