Focus on one war, fellas

By Raffique Shah
January 21, 2020

Raffique ShahAs the heavily armed hardcore criminals consolidate their murderous stranglehold on our country, striking with seeming impunity anytime, anywhere they choose to, the powers-that-be go into the panic mode and respond with fusillades of “gobar” rather than superior strategy and firepower.

Gunmen wielding weapons as deadly as the AR-15 launched yet another brazen attack in downtown Port of Spain mid-afternoon last Tuesday leaving two dead, scores who were nearby soiling their under-garments, and thousands more frightened to walk the city streets. What does Minister of National Security Stuart Young say? He speaks of some vague conspiracy between the criminals and “certain people” who want to promote fear and panic among the population. Why would anyone want to do that? Hey, a general election is due by year-end, so you guess who would want to create instability, to gain political power.

I say the minister is talking tripe. Because if there is an iota of truth in his hint of a conspiracy between key players in the opposition United National Congress and gunmen across the country—and let us be blunt about whom he is pointing fingers at—he would have better served the police investigations into such a grave crime by keeping his trap shut, allowing the conspirators to continue with their plot, and stinging them when they least expect it.

I have no doubt that officials of the UNC are not exactly unhappy about the crime explosion in the country: it makes the ruling PNM come across as being incompetent, incapable of controlling crime, which could tip the election against the incumbents. But consort with criminals to unleash mayhem and murder across one’s country? Nah! Prove me wrong, Minister Young.

The minister is not the first to hold the critical national security portfolio and find himself incapable of reining in runaway crime. Many more experienced than him, from his colleague General Edmund Dillon to current Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, Jack Warner to Brigadier Carl Alfonso, have all run into solid steel that is the ever-expanding criminal enterprise in Trinidad & Tobago.

When he was Prime Minister, sometime in 2000 or earlier, Basdeo Panday seized the ministry to ride into Dodge and silence or scatter the notorious gunmen. Within weeks he threw up his arms and surrendered. Patrick Manning was not so stupid: he assigned Martin Joseph to face the fire, which the poor fella did, and it all but killed him. Kamla Persad-Bissessar resorted to an ill-advised state of emergency in 2011, during which the police were said to have uncovered a plot to assassinate her and/or overthrow her government. The emergency, curfew and detention of several “conspirators” yielded a reduction in murders from 485 in 2010 to 354. But it cost the government a substantial sum when many of the detainees, who had not been charged with any offence, successfully sued the state.

And the murders continued, reaching 410 in 2015, the year Kamla was voted out of office.

The main point I’m making to Minister Young is he does not need to invent “conspiracies” to explain the failure of the incumbent administration to call halt to the mayhem out there—which is advice CoP Griffith should also heed. In his case, he spoke about a conspiracy involving senior Express editors and writers, unnamed police officers and criminal elements to sabotage his efforts to reduce crime. That accusation, coming on the heels of similar attacks he mounted against the judiciary, members of the Law Association and others who have publicly disagreed with him on certain issues, diminished the respect many citizens and organisations openly expressed when he was first appointed CoP.

Instead of keeping his focus on one target, the hardcore criminals, Sandhurst-trained Griffith breached a fundamental rule of warfare, training his guns on too many perceived enemies, fighting too many battles Don Quixote style. If he continues on this road-to-nowhere, we will lose the real war, which is the one against the criminal enterprise. Note well, I said “we” stand to lose, not “he”.

Because ultimately this is about citizens uniting to defeat the criminals, who number no more than a few thousand. There is consensus on this even if we disagree on strategy and tactics. The fight-back begins in homes, among families, involving communities. It necessarily includes the police and other law enforcement and judicial agencies, the media, and so on.

The first question that we need answers for is this: who are the gun-runners who are supplying arms and ammunition to the criminal elements? If, after a few decades of arms build-up, during which we have seen a shift from basic handguns to automatic guns, sub-machine guns, and now rifles—the police do not know who are behind it, how can we say we are serious about fighting crime?

I find it incredible that AR-15 automatic rifles are being used in committing crimes and the police seem to be as surprised as I am. Let me explain. Any rifle like the AR-15 or AK-47 has a muzzle velocity of over 3,000 feet per second (the speed at which the projectile exits the muzzle). In contrast, any Glock-type handgun exits at around 1,000 fps. The latter have an effective fighting range of around 50 metres while a rifle is normally used in combat at 300 metres although the projectile travels up to 1,000 metres.

You try to figure out the implications of such rifles being in the hands of criminals. I want members of the magistracy and judiciary, before whom criminals charged with possession of such weapons of war appear, to ponder the possibilities. The first step in any serious war on violent crimes must be to stop such weapons from entering the country, and to take those already here off the killing fields of T&T.

That’s one small step towards the larger goal of reducing crime in our beloved country.

7 Responses to “Focus on one war, fellas”


  • This article by Shah displays his expertise as a Sandhurst graduate and military man. This is his wheelhouse. He knows what he is talking about.
    Pay attention people.
    T&T seems to be too far gone to turn back now. Crime has become an integral part of government services whose employees once relied on petty bribes and favours. Every government department and agency from the Military to the Police and Customs seem to be involved.
    The Minister of National INsecurity would be better off cleaning his own house before casting spurious allegations for political gain.
    This smells of Rowley’s false emailgate episode in the Parliament of T&T where he made wild, unsubstantiated and false accusations against the sitting Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet. It worked. The PNM won the election.
    In other countries, Rowley would now be in jail, not our prime minister.
    Faced with charges of incompetence and fearing defeat in the coming election, the PNM once more devices a plot to paint the Opposition in a negative light.
    Unfortunately, the PNM “till ah dead” diehards will buy this crap, lock stock and barrel, just like the never ending stories of Opposition corruption which can never be brought to the courts and proven.Meanwhile they turn a blind eye as several of their Ministers are facing corruption charges and accusations.

  • Reginal Dumas laments that “Young Black males are behind most murders in T&T”
    Unfortunately, this is becoming an international problem. In both Canada and the US, Black males are committing a disproportionate number of murders. This phenomenon is spreading to some European countries also where the percentage of Blacks in jail is disproportionately too high as compared to the rest of the population.

  • Sandhurst or not, there are people who can hear, retain and repeat; but they cannot think. Need I say more? Trinidad and Tobago is rapidly becoming a movie set with one exception, those being killed are not coming back. Many of our pseudo-intellectual leaders on both sides of the political divide have created this deadly virus that threatens to consume us all.
    Perhaps, if some genuine attempt could be weaponized to effectively deal with the evils created by poverty, such as five-star ghettos, access to pipeborne water and other socioeconomic treats that separate the haves from the have-nots, thus, giving hope to the hopeless. Massa left over a half century ago, now, who do we blame?

  • Not satisfied with its vendetta against Gary Griffith, the CoP, the Express now is on the warpath against Minister Stuart Young. The headlines of the last few days show that they want to bully the Minister – Slaps for Young, Summon Stuart, Stuart in a box. Obviously the Minister has struck a raw nerve. He is uncovering a truth that hits a nerve. The howls of protest against the truth that Minister Young has thrown out in the open have reached crescendo level. Nothing like the truth to stir up the guilty. Surprising that an old coup man like Raffique discounts the intelligence obtained by even the police, Raffique should know better. He led a coup. Now the 2020 coup appears to be on. In 2020, those elements that want to overthrow the government through means that are not democratic, not through the ballot but the bullet, have decided that the time is right for a coup. Thus the destabilization of the country through paid assassins, through contract killers. Life is cheap in Trinidad and hired killers can be bought cheaply. Three things are necessary for a coup in Latin America and the Caribbean, and there have been a number of coups in the region in the last year. Firstly a biased, partisan media that deals in fake news, misinformation and propaganda. Secondly, a section of the judiciary that is partisan and corrupt whose decisions are tied in, not to the impartial service of justice, but to political interests. Thirdly, destabilization through criminal elements who can be bought to murder people in their homes and on the streets. We have all three elements in operation in Trinidad now and the coup seems to be on. The coup will fail because of one thing. Hired, contract killers have no loyalty and they will turn on those who hire them in the twinkling of an eye. So expect many twists and turns and many unexplained and unexplainable events.

    • Without one iota of evidence you present a cheap, PNM “till ah dead” biased, partisan, fake defence of Young, indulging in misinformation and propaganda, reminiscent of the fake emailgate affair championed in the Parliament of T&T by a desperate Rowley, eager to become prime minister….
      All smokescreen and mirrors designed to influence the next election.
      These unsubstantiated accusations must be effective since even a perceptible intelligent person like you seem to be convinced.
      If and when solid evidence with names and charges are presented, I will join your outrage. Until then permit me the luxury of a good laugh and skepticism based on so many former similar clarion calls of corruption, conspiracies and fake criminal conquests.

  • recently spent 3 weeks in trinidad,visted all 4 cardinal points,never once felt like a failed state or fail state to be,obviously some failed neighborhoods,then again i was always liming with gainfully legally employed friends/family.

  • The psychology of crime and criminality should be a long standing discussion in UWI. Much like the Williams papers. But in this happy go lucky nation talkers abound.

    Just a few weeks ago Dumas admits that young black males are committing most of the murders. He being a black apologist could not lie in face of the actual evidence. But that is where these things end because no one wants to enter the dragon. They are afraid of the dragon, the dragon representing race.

    During the 1950s, 60s Williams open the door to islanders to come to the pearl of the Caribbean, Trinidad. In the hustle to get here young illiterate black boys were loaded on planes and shipped to relatives mainly in the east west corridor and later La Brea and Point Fortin. They came and stayed as an amalagum in certain areas excelling in ebonics and playing the fool. Laventille bore the brunt of this excess. And so began a culture of death covered in the dreaded dragon of ignorance. Then drugs entered the fray and overnight these illiterates joined the rank as gang members.

    Today the cycle of illiteracy is yet to be broken. And the cancer of death found in the guns of hired executioners continue to reek havoc. How does it all end, no it will never end because every child born in hotbed of death does not value his own life…

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