Crime fight calls for swift, deadly justice

By Raffique Shah
November 11th 2007

Patrick ManningNow that Patrick Manning and the PNM have convincingly won the 2007 general elections, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues need to lace their work boots, adjust their coveralls, and get back to work without even a pause for refreshment or celebration. There is no honeymoon after a third marriage. Manning must have sensed a PNM victory well before elections day-as sober observers did-those who were not carried away by highly inflated crowd numbers, especially the paid-for versions. So now, as George Chambers said after his 1981 victory: fete done, it’s back to work.

The PM must be reminded that while his victory was resounding, the numbers of votes his party garnered in its core constituencies were less, proportionally, than they were in previous elections. That should signal to him that many PNM supporters stayed away from the polls for one reason or another. PNM people, like many with other party affiliations and those with none, are disillusioned with some aspects of PNM governance. And if he fails to take heed, to note people’s concerns and their fears, then he may learn the hard way that constitutionally he was elected for “not more than five years”, and maybe much less.

Unabated crime is undoubtedly the number one concern among all citizens. Mr Manning usually reels off a shopping list of measures his government has taken to curb crime. But these are of little comfort to victims of robberies and other violent crimes, especially when the police ritually fail to respond within a reasonable time. In fact, because the police seem to treat with anything short of murder as “petty crimes”, most victims don’t even bother to report them.

Lest the PM and the Commissioner of Police dispute what I write, let me give them a few examples. By email last week, a couple from the West alerted the population to an explosive but not isolated incident that occurred at a fast food outlet in Glencoe. They had gone to collect an order, only to discover upon entering the premises that a gang of young men was terrorising staff and customers, cussing and threatening loudly. The staff would have already alerted the police.

The gang zeroed in on the woman to the point where one pinched her bottom. The husband intervened, only to be threatened that he could be shot there and then, expletives undeleted. Fortunately for the couple and other customers, nothing further happened. But the fact that the police failed to respond is criminal.

On my street (Christine Kangaloo knows it, since she now represents me), a female resident was attacked one night two weeks ago by a lone bandit who grabbed her gold chain. There are shady characters stalking the street, and although reports have been made, police patrols of the area are conspicuous by their absence. Officers at the nearest police station to us (one mile away) tell us we have to call Couva (six miles away). In California, two bandits held up and robbed two young salesmen in broad daylight. The parlour owner, seeing what was happening, called the Couva police (two miles away). Whoever answered the phone asked that the victims come to the station to make a report! I can go on and on, pointing to police delinquency that give criminals free rein to rob and kill.

Speaking with an ex-soldier friend recently, he informed me that his house was burglarised for the fifth time recently. He counted his losses, and duly reported the matter to the Chaguanas police. “Why bother?” I asked him. “Raf,” he replied, “I did that for one reason. If and when I catch the bitches, I am going to kill them…they will never rob again!” And this ex-corporal meant what he said. I know the man, I know what he is capable of.

Is this the road we citizens must all travel? When Keith Rowley’s vehicle was broken into recently and his briefcase stolen, had he caught the culprits the headlines would have read: Minister murders bandits! That’s where we are heading, Mr Prime Minister.

People will take the law into their hands, will deal with the criminals as they see fit. I was once robbed at gunpoint when the robbers held the advantage. But if ever it happens again, or if ever I can intervene in any criminal act where I have the upper hand, the police would have to cart away corpses, not criminals. Sure, they will arrest and charge me for murder, maybe multiple murders.

But I would much prefer to stew in a prison cell and stand before judge and jury explaining how and why I killed a few criminals, rather than have a pathologist explain to an inquest the gory details of my death. Mr Prime Minister, in the last six years, your government and the police failed to arrest crime. Admit it. Let this be your number one priority. If you do nothing else, you need to restore peace in the country. If you don’t, the people will deliver swift, deadly justice-by whatever means necessary.

9 thoughts on “Crime fight calls for swift, deadly justice”

  1. I agree with the sentiments of Raffique Shau. The Prime Minister must make the extermination of criminality, especially the blatant, brazen and violent manifestation of this social malady, his top priority. Trinidad and Tobago is not lacking in funds to acquire the necessary tools to fight crime. And even if it means public video camering of the whole damn Island, the situation carries a gravity level that renders such extremities necessary.

    What the Prime Minister has to understand, is that the worse case scenario will see people using the level of criminality as an excuse for sterotypical revenge killings. Because that is where it will go. There has never been and never will be such a thing as controlled vigilante justice, where who gets killed are the ones who deserve to die. In adition, a society, a civilization, can only guarantee its continuity as such by strict adherence to principles of due process and the rule of law. Once you get into a mode of people taking the law into their own hands to settle grievances in which they perceive of themselves as victims, pandora’s box becomes widely opened, and Trinidad and Tobago will become Dodge City.

    If this happens, the blame will have to be placed where it belongs. Squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister. You cannot enjoy the glory of power without some accountability for how you use it. Mr Prime minister, use that power to bring crime in our nation down to manageable proportions. We know there is no such thing as a crime free society. But there are many societies where crime is a nuisance rather than a plague. It resembles the latter in Trinidad and Tobago now, and you must use your power to reduce it to a level where it resembles the former.

  2. Shaw’s gun talk is totally irresponsible. As an influential journalist, he should know better.To advocate the gunning down of anyone, criminals included ,is as obscene as Panday’s diatribe on election night.

  3. I usually respect the soundness of Mr. Shaw’s positions, but this time he is off the mark. i would like him to examine his possessions and ask himself which one is worth dying for, or killing for, a Rolex? A plasma TV? A new Car. Can a life be purchased for returning any of these? Guns are a symbol of power, and using one to take a life is really an act of cowardice. To try to retaliate could acccelerate violence.

    I know someone whose car was broken in to in Arouca, and his laptop stolen. He was furious. He saw the guy snooping around and saw the break in, but the Arouca police did not respond. He did not go out for fear the thief had a gun. he could have lost his life and his laptop.If you had a gun, I asked, would you have shot him? I won’t own a gun. he said. He has taken the Hippocratic Oath. He saves the lives of the knifed and the shot.

    There is hope. We must work together for full employment.

    No material thing is worth the price of human life.

  4. Since Raffique wrote his column, a woman was stabbed with an ice pick in Morvant, by relatives, a man named Riaz Ali was shot by the police in Diego Martin and there was the brutal murder of Mr. De Pieza in Santa Cruz.

    Two crimes of passion, one within a family, one by a man put out of a family, and one, of police shooting someone who allegedly shot at them first.

    Three people are dead, three people who it took more than twenty years to raise to adulthood. Which of their immediate relatives, given a chance to run those final frames of the persons’ lives again, knowing the expected outcome, would not go on a different course? Which would not turn the hands of the clock back?

    Death is final, whether its a criminal shooting at police,or at civilians; whether its police shooting a criminal, or a stray shot killing an innocent bystander; or the blood and gore of crimes of passion that rival horror movies. Some American company will turn the story of the chopping, scalping and gouging out of eyes into a horror flick by next Halloween, just watch.

    Regardless of how they died, each untimely death is regretted. Violence begets violence begets violence. To break the cycyle we have to start talking to each other.

    Reaching for an ice pick, a cutlass or a gun ruins at least two lives, permanently.

  5. Security is one of the cornerstones of a civil society. I must say that it breaks my heart to agree with Mr. Shah. Mr. Shah’s column makes a prediction that will plunge Trinidad and Tobago into anarchy, if the current state of affairs is not addressed. Ordinary citizens will be forced to become criminals and many will die both perpetrators and victims. Violence in Trinidad has reached a level that was unimaginable in the days of my upbringing. The amounts of guns that have followed the drug trade are unbelievable. Trinidad’s geographic location has sheltered it from “hurricane” but not from “Cocaine”. The drug trade like a snail leaves slime where ever is passes. The “slime” for Trinidad is kidnapping, drug abuse, homicide, criminal gangs and corruption. The people of Trinidad have allowed this situation to go unimpeded. Trinidadians have developed a working relationship with crime. As long as it does not stop “Carnival’ or stop the “Fete” or close the rum shop they can live with it. Each day the criminal acts become more heinous. I am waiting for the public to become enraged but to no avail. Which criminal act will be the catalyst for change? Will a bandit have to eat a new born baby in order for the public to start protesting? Where are the university students? Where are the heads of the Catholic and Anglican churches? Where are the principles of the Schools? Where are the teachers? Where are the mothers of these young people whose blood stain the streets of Trinidad & Tobago daily? Significant change must come from the people of Trinidad & Tobago! They must call for a national boycott; every thing must stop in order to bring attention to crime. Someone (Mr. Shah) must organize a “Million man/woman march” on Port of Spain to make the government accountable to the people. Community leaders must come together to protest on a national scale. The government will not act until the people demand action. The bloodletting must stop!

  6. I believe that Shau makes a valid point that unless there are notable efforts and results in the drive to curb violent crimes, sections of the populace will attempt their own forms of justice. For me, it goes even further. Because in societies where there are racial and ethnic tensions based on unfavourable perceptions each one has for the other for the most part, there are many who will use vigilanteism as a cover to settle racial and ethnic scores. In other words, Political Peter will be made to pay for Criminal Paul, and ethnic Paul will become the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the criminal all. The leaders in such societies have to be cognizant of such frightening possibilities, or more precisely, eventualities. Patrick Manning as the head honcho must take the point in this battle to sever the head of this venemous social reptilian scourge before it inundates the society with its venom.

    I support politicians based on my perception of their ability to administer the affairs of State in a competent, fair and balanced manner. Manning, in my view, stood head and shoulder above his competition in this respect. But now that the election is over and he has the baton of control betwix his mitts so to speak, I am not going to give him a pass on the troubling issue of violent crime. From here on down the line, he should get the praise for its reduction, and be held accountable if it continues as is, or gets worse.

  7. I.m English & have holidayed in Tobago 5 times in the last 5 years & enjoyed it to the extent that we considered buying a house on the island. We have followed house sales carefully over the last 18 months & wondered why more & more came on the market with very few finding new owners.Reading this & other web sites gives a very good clue as to the underlying problems; crime & lack of “real” jobs being formost. Isn’t it time that oil rich T&T started getting down to fundementals & tackling the root cause of the troubles or the islands will end up with such an unenviable reputation that no one will feel secure enough to holiday there let alone buy a holiday home –perhaps that is what people want — no visitors [I.m not talking about the hotels who try to “corall” their guests within their own boundaries & who recieve a lot of their revenue abroad as booking fees which never reach T&T & so never benefit the local economy. Hope the new P.M. gets a grip on reality in the near future.

  8. The terrible death of Benazir Bhutto must give all who think violence should be met by violence, pause to think.All the people who will die in the outpourings of grief and rage, look like some of our people.Violence solves nothing. It would be better if we all worked toether to create a more just society where the distance between the haves and the hvenots is narrowed in a positie way. I cannot say whether I would have been a thief or a bandit if fortune had not favoured me with carin parents,nterested teachers, at least one relative who gave a fifteen year old a chance, and supporters of my career. I have no idea of what it is like to want a job, and not find one, no idea of my childen being hungry and unable to feed them; but had that been my situation, would I have been a thief, a burglar, a robber?Would I have been given to overchargin? raft, bribery or corruption?

    Life put me on a specific path, and I walked it.

    What can we do to geViolencessolves nothing.t others on the riht path?

  9. Correction of last sentence,previous post:

    What can we do to help get others on the right path? Violence solves nothing.
    (Blame minor typos on the speed of high speed internet and Vista, plus a keypad with a weak “g”.

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