Daly Bread: If ministers feel “helpless” about crime, then what now?

With great dismay last Tuesday, I read the lamentation of three government ministers concerning the state of crime in Trinidad & Tobago and the incidence of drug use amongst youths.

One of them, Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, felt “helplessness” in the face of violence.

Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis (left) tours a HDC site in Edinburgh 500.
(via HDC)

The obvious response is to invite her to come out of government but many citizens would not waste their time because they are frustrated by the lack of any credible alternative personnel or political party.

None of the alternatives on offer are likely to enjoy even a fleeting moment of trust and confidence. We are in a bad place for political choices.

The wailings of the other two ministers, Fitzgerald Hinds, the minister of National Security, and Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, the minister of Education, contained the usual touting of what the Government is doing regarding the development of youth.

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds.

Ministers Hinds and Gadsby-Dolly did seem able to appreciate that the ill-gotten gains of crime were more attractive to the youth than the conventional opportunities presented by the government programs.

They also are aware that the outlook of the youth towards conventional opportunities is distorted by get rich quick options and the use of drugs.

Unfortunately, the Minister of Education, like all her predecessors, presides over the relentless segregation of children at age 11-plus by means of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (the SEA)—formerly the Common Entrance Examination.

Blanchisseuse Primary School students enjoyed some SSFL Big 5 action on 20 February 2024 as Blanchisseuse Secondary whipped Moruga Secondary in Blanchisseuse.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

The education system irrevocably brands children at that age by reference to a limited test of potential and a competition to attain entry into first choice schools. Many thousands of children are annually branded second rate.

How on earth can any minister of government expect that a significant number of children negatively branded will become anything other than frustrated and amenable to be turned away from the pristine values espoused by the ministers?

The Minister of Education also commented that “the solution must start at the primary school level to reach the minds before the tainting begins”.  This sounds nice, but the minds in the primary school are narrowed by the need to be drilled for the SEA.

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly (left) and Minister in the Ministry of Education Lisa Morris-Julian visit students at the Gandhi Memorial Vedic School during the Covid-19 pandemic.
(via Ministry of Education)

Moreover, hearts and minds, both in primary and secondary schools, are twisted by poor socio-economic conditions and lack of objective justice.

I have written over two decades about these socio-economic conditions, bourgeois disdain for those people and the contribution of successive governments to breeding violent crime. I have fresh help.

One the same day that the Trinidad Express newspaper carried the ministerial wailings, Newsday reported the perspectives of three young women on violent crime.

RIP…

One of them was sociologist Adeola Young who summarized our predicament of different forms of injustice and violence that are built into Trinidad and Tobago’s social, economic and cultural institutions. She advocated the re-definition of ideas of peace and security and redressing the structural, cultural and systemic violence.

Regarding disdain for those people, Adeola Young insightfully asserted: “Traditional and social media can also provide insight into how racialized, classist panic over crime is constructed and spread and infiltrates social and political psyches of Trinbagonians.

“It affects their ideas of peace and security, who is responsible for the lack of it and how to attain peace and security.”

A protester shows off her placard after the death of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt.

Here in summary is what I recommended in 2003, 21 years ago: “We must pressure the government, whoever they are, to take back control of the resources of the state from cronies and pardners, armed or unarmed. That is a political job.

“It is not the job of the police. Their job is to attack first, and with urgency and integrity, the drug trade that underlies the gang murders.

“If any government does not act independently of the criminal element in the society, whether they are grassroots bandits or the devils in disguise in upscale residences and prosperous businesses, the regulation of society in the interest of the common good will eventually become impossible.

Former PNM Minister of Energy John O’Halloran is synonymous with state corruption.

“The laws of the land will have legal validity but will cease to be effective.”

What dismayed me about these latest ministerial wailings is the lack of any understanding that they and the government, led by the prime minister, have a leadership responsibility to work differently and smarter with new and pro-active policies.

If they are helpless to do so, what now?

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