Crime-fighters and criminals – same difference

by Raffique Shah
Sunday, November 25th 2007

JailThe avalanche of criticisms that slammed into National Security Minister Martin Joseph and his protective services chiefs after their media briefing last week was not only predictable, but, necessary. Here’s a country in the vice-like grip of a crime clinch that seems to come from a mutant octopus, and there were the minister and his chiefs saying: no worries! Well, not quite. But their apparent insensitivity to the mayhem that has engulfed the nation, the fear that most people live with, every minute, every day, only served to infuriate the population.

Really, did acting CoP Glen Roach have to refer to a “drop in crime”? Prudence, and the rising tide of anger among the populace, dictated that even if there was a genuine one per cent drop in serious crimes, he should have stayed silent. Did Minister Joseph need to reveal that his portfolio was way above his head, something that any vagrant in Tamarind Square could have told him two years ago? Did Brigadier Peter Joseph feel compelled to pronounce, in a strident tone, that the services would deal with crime, that soon the population would see the results of their initiatives?

Let me start with “de Brig”, with whom I share some things in common-we are both Sandhurst graduates, hence we’d both tackle problems from a military perspective. It has been around five years since Joseph was drawn from the upper ranks of the Regiment and put to head the special anti-crime unit. Without knowing the man, I instinctively thought it was a good appointment. In many ways he was entering hostile territory, since policemen don’t take kindly to soldiers poaching on their “turf” (and that could be very literal, eh!). Still, I felt he’d overcome the odds by showing his detractors-and the criminal elements-just what well-trained military officers are capable of doing.

I shan’t get into classified details, or lay bare strategy and tactics. I often cringe when I read reports, in the midst of sensitive investigations, that “the police have received new leads that will take them to Carapo where the murder suspect is said to be hiding.” What the hell does the reporter think the suspect would do on reading that? But Brigadier Joseph knows that good intelligence is critical to any operation. That would require reconnaissance, even infiltration. In today’s hi-tech world, it would mean, too, monitoring movements and conversations of criminals.

Having built a proper database of criminal elements, one then strikes. But not before you neutralise communications in the targeted area. By the time the dust clears, it’s either you have some murderers and robbers by the balls, or they are biting dust in their dying spasms. Brigadier Joseph cannot tell me that after five years on the job none of the above (and more sensitive stuff I’ve omitted) has been achieved. Or if they have, that he and his colleagues have not acted on them. If I were in his boots and I could not make a difference, I would quit. It’s been five years now, Brig. Whatever the reasons may be behind your unit’s failure to bring crime under control, as its leader you should walk .or march.

As for Minister Joseph, why did he not tell the Prime Minister that he wanted out of National Security? Why wait until after being re-appointed to howl to the heavens about being out of his depth? Is office more important than the safety of the nation’s citizens? And the Police Service what do I say? If I were contracted to deal with crime, I’d start by firing half of them-the corrupt and/or lazy cops who see their job as protecting and serving self, not country. When I see known criminals walk the country as if they own it, and the police are either in collusion with them or are afraid of them, I wonder what policing has come to.

I hasten to add that the platform promises made by some politicians that, if elected to power, they would solve crime overnight, is all hogwash. Ramesh Maharaj asked for 30 days to do the job.

Is he living the fantasy world of Superman? Based on the track record of the party he has crawled back to, criminals would climb the social ladder, not rot in hell or be hanged from some mango tree. Which begs another question: why do politicians feel they need to be aligned with criminals in order to win office or remain in power? When one who works hard for a living reads about criminals with million-dollar contracts, one questions the rationale for being law-abiding.

I have left the biggest contributors to high crime for last. That’s the average citizen who knows, and often benefits materially, from the blood of victims. I ask, as I have done countless times before: who buys the gold, the laptops, the cameras and the cars for which people are terrorised or killed? Look into the mirror, crook. Yes, you, jeweller, store owner, car dealer, mother, father. You are more criminal than the satanic beasts who have turned ordinary people’s lives into a living hell.

2 Responses to “Crime-fighters and criminals – same difference”


  • I would have hoped that Raffique Shah would have used his considerable writing skils,and earned wisdom, to make specific suggestions to the new government on issues concerning the people, as is the right, and duty of informed citizens. Instead,he has used two of his last columns to first, advocate shooting criminals, as if such people could be identified before-hand, and now, says that the criminal and the crime-fighters are one. Let me ask Mr. Shah two questions. Did the police kidnap little Jeremiah from the Mount Hope Hospital, or did someone else commit that crime? Was it a policeman that shocked the nation this morning, by taking his life and that of his ten year old son? That is a criminal act. Was it policemen who committed two heinous crimes of passion, one in Paramin one in Santa Cruz two weeks ago?

    Being myself a mature citizen, I do not use the term dotage easily, but the two columns recently, mentioned above, put you into that group whose thinking gets muddled by a feeling of helplessness at increasing age and disrupted body functions. You remind me of the old man, legs too weak to move, who sat in the corner and whacked at the legs of the chippy young girls who passed by. Please understand that the position you hold as an elder in the society, as a former revelutionary who was pardoned by an international tribunal, for mutiny, makes you responsible for being wiser than you have recently demonstrated.

    Our country’s problems are many, and need the collective wisdom of the rsponsible elders to give the generations we raised, there are two after us, a sense of direction that we have so far failed to give them.

    Know also,that in the US, in Canada. in Britain, in India and Nigeria- our models fo all things good and bad, there are corrupt policemen. There are corrupt politicians. Many of them go to jail in the US, some get early retirement, and the entire force gets a reprimand sometimes, as happened in Britain. Informed citizens are the guardians of democracy. I have never met a Briton or an Americn who gave up on his country, and ceased to care about forward progress. You are reminded that all the education you got beyond secondary school was at the hands of the PNM government. You are its product as I am. You owe it to your country not to bag policemen/crime-fighters and criminals together. That is an act of gross disloyalty. I am sure that when you were member of the Defence Force, you saw your role as different from that of the criminal., nor did you see your actions, along with Rex Lasalle et al as a crime. What happened to the generations you helped to raise?

    I hope you would give some serious though to what I have said here, but sometimes, arrogant critics do not read critiques of their positions,they are so bent on pulling down what was built.

  • Linda what Mr Shah was talking about was the failure and incompetence of the PNM government to fulfil it’s obligation to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to maintain a society where citizens can feel safe, and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor without having to look over their backs everytime,he’s not anti T&T anything that’s not even the point.
    And to mention the education that he received,is’nt that what the government is suppose to do, educate with taxpayers money and besides taxpayers money come from all sectors of the population PNM, UNC and all other political supporters , so to imply that just because he received an education while the PNM was in office he has no right to point out the obvious that the PNM government is a failure is going against the rights to free speech enshrined in the constitution.
    The PNM has have and is a failure they have been in power longer than every government since independence and they have failed to transform T&T and make it a more developed place, there are countries with far fewer resources doing better than Trinidad,and why is that? because we have a bunch of incompetents in office, who have no leadership and or vision from Dr Williams on down, thats why the place is in a mess despite all the oil revenues.

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