By Raffique Shah
January 20, 2008
Now that Prime Minister Patrick Manning has declared his latest plan to curb crime-hang ’em high-I must advise him of a sinister measure he can add for special effect. The PM knows I am among those who oppose capital punishment, although, shamefully, I must admit to having looked in the other direction as Dole Chadee and his gang were strung up under hangman Ramesh Maharaj’s watch. Now I urge the PM to torture the SoBs before putting the noose around their necks.
Here’s how it will work. After death warrants are read to these low-lives and non-humans, give them each a cordless phone (that’s to ensure they don’t hang themselves before the State does!). Tell them to dial the Ministry of National Security’s several listed phone lines. If they get an answer in less than five days, they get a reprieve. Mr Manning, you have them by the balloons!
I personally attest to the soundness of this torture. Working on a story last week, I had to reach several ministries in the hope of getting data and comments. At National Security, the one occasion when an operator responded, I thought I had reached a rumshop, not the ministry. Me: “Hello?” The other end: “Yeah?” “Is this National Security?” “No dis is de head office.” Rechecking the numbers I had noted, I told Ms Crude I was trying to reach the corporate communications department of the Ministry of National Security. “Hold on!” I wait for a few minutes while another phone rang before it was answered.
I made my request. I was told the person who could talk with me was not in office that day. I left my name and phone number. The person vowed to have the official return my call. When that did not happen, I tried a million times the following day to get an answer. The phone just rang.
That was no fluke. I tried to reach the Ministry of Labour on Thursday, around 3.45 p.m. The minister must be in office now, I told myself. Instead of the minister I got a recording telling me that the ministry’s hours of business were 8 a.m. to 4.15 p.m. At 3.45 p.m. I was late! Can you believe this? And it holds true for every public office. If the PM doubts me, he should try reaching his ministers via their PBXs, not their direct lines.
Now, that is torture. Legit, I need add. No International Criminal Court in The Hague for our PM. The devilish Death Row inmates will wear out their fingers fighting for reprieves. None will come. The last thing they’d think of as the hangman pulls the lever to send them to Hell is: damn those telephone operators!
But back on the crime scene. Is the resumption of hangings the best Mr Manning can come up with? Those who argue you must first catch the criminals, then secure convictions, are correct. If the arrest rate is close to zero, of what use is capital punishment?
When I began this series, I remarked that Martin Joseph’s many plans have come to nought. Among Friday’s on-line Express headlines, 10 of the top 12 related to crimes. Three dealt with murders, one spoke of seven people being shot at a wake close to a police post, another of a family closing its business because of robberies. Ramesh and Jack Warner walking around Macaulay with four burly security guards must have made people laugh. But we can expect other, similar pantomimes, as people remain helpless in a crime wave that the Government seems incapable of containing.
If a report that the PM has opted for private security over the nation’s policemen and soldiers is true, then Mr. Manning and his new AG have no moral authority to condemn Ramesh and Jack. This is total madness! The PM has no confidence in our law enforcement agencies but he expects citizens to rely on them for protection. What he needs to do is let loose the dogs of war; allow every man woman and child the privilege of arming themselves. Let bullets fly every which way, and those who remain standing at the end of the mayhem would rule the country.
Now, let me tell Mr. Manning and blood-thirsty Trinis why effecting capital punishment won’t help. A few weeks ago a young gangster was gunned down by his brother-in-crime. Mere days before, he told several people around him: “Dey out to get mih.” But he did nothing to show he valued his own life. During the latter part of his 23 years on earth, he used to dress in school uniform (so young and small was he), move with a concealed gun, and shoot his victims. The latter must have registered surprise in their dying moments-killed by a “schoolboy”!
In other words, life and death mean nothing to today’s criminals. So would they be brought to heel by a criminal justice system that has collapsed, from arrests to convictions? I should think not. I rest my case.