Army can clean up the country

By Raffique Shah
June 22, 2008

ArmyThe telephone call came earlier than reveille-for-an-old-soldier, but it was not unexpected. At the other end of the line, “College”, having apologised for blowing the telecom bugle a trifle too soon, said to me: “Raf, you must write something about these little punks who feel they can shoot soldiers just so! That would never have happened in our day. We took care of our own, even if it meant bending the law!” To cut a short conversation even shorter, “College”, as the one-time private soldier was fondly known, felt that Corporal Ancil Wallace’s colleagues should have acted with dispatch to deal with the toy-criminals who brazenly shot to death the soldier and his close friend.

Of course “College” was not aware that a large contingent of soldiers had already moved into the Richplain/Bagatelle district. Or that while most residents of the area were breathing sighs of relief, many were crying foul, accusing the military of brutality and worse. Soon, politicians, attorneys, civil rights activists and others chastised the military for setting up camp in the district, for acting illegally. And using the media to advantage, scores of residents complained of brutality on the part of the soldiers, of the innocent being made to pay for the guilty.

I shall try to inject some sobriety into this debate, but I should warn readers I cannot be as objective as I should like to be. For some time now I have had reports about young criminals and gangs taking control of parts of Diego Martin, Patna and Petit Valley.

Bear in mind that ever since the Defence Force was established in 1962, housing for married servicemen extended from the newly-established Diamond Vale district through Diego and the Valley. So today many pioneers of the Force along with second, even third generation servicemen live there. That’s how I heard, repeatedly, and first-hand, about the degeneration of what was once a model community.

If anyone put the area “under curfew” it was the gangsters. Law-abiding residents locked themselves inside their houses early at nights, for fear of being victims of bandits or collateral damage from gunmen just shooting up the place. Worse, many people knew who the “bad boys” were-in the main, products of wayward parents who could not give a damn about the many good people who had lived in that haven for all their lives. They not only bred criminals. They encouraged and condoned criminality of the worst kind. Because the gunmen are from among them, they heaped scorn on other residents who could not fight back.

I imagine the servicemen and ex-servicemen in the area felt impotent in dealing with the thugs-for the very reason the military is today being flayed. Had they acted on their own, they would have been condemned, maybe prosecuted. And because they failed to act to stem the decline, they are blamed for having allowed the reign of terror, of acting only when one of theirs became a victim. It’s a classical case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

I agree with those who argue that if the army could “lock down” Diego, why not do the same in other crime-ridden communities? In fact, when “College” alluded to “that would not have happened in our day”, he was quite correct. Barring the odd soldier who used his uniform to “pull rank” on civilians, strong action was taken against the “badjohns” of that era who showed no respect for the military. As early as in 1963, a large contingent of soldiers unleashed belts and batons on Carenage residents for the sins of their bad boys who routinely beat up on individual soldiers. In my capacity as a platoon commander, I personally led two reprisals against persons who attacked my men-unknowing to my seniors, of course. Other junior officers and small groups of soldiers did likewise. We took care of our own.

Regarding what’s taking place in Richplain now, if I have questions they would be: why has it taken this long? And why only Richplain? Government, which keeps groping for solutions to unchecked crime, should note the results coming out of one military “lockdown”.

If the troops do their work well, by the time they leave the district, the people would thank them for restoring some tranquillity. Similar exercises should be executed in other crime-ridden districts. Oh, there will be cries of brutality, of Peter paying for Paul, and of the army calling the shots-quite literally.

But coming from the very people who shout that nothing is being done to protect the population from criminal elements, I say to the soldiers: carry on smartly, be fair but firm in weeding out the criminals, and show respect and love for the law-abiding. Win the hearts and minds of those who matter most, good people. To the Government, I ask: are you still against the declaration of a limited state of emergency to deal with the gun-toting scourge of the society?

Well, the army has done it for you. Let the troops be. Let them clean up the mess politicians and lawless civilians have heaped on us all.

http://www.trinicenter.com/Raffique/2008/Jun/220608.htm

7 Responses to “Army can clean up the country”


  • Raf, yuh mean like in Pakistan?

  • [Well, the army has done it for you. Let the troops be. Let them clean up the mess politicians and lawless civilians have heaped on us all.]

    Someone needs to take control of this situation. It is heart wrenching to see this happening and the politicians remain in a state of stupor.

    Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired!

    Thank you Mr. Shah

  • That’s the fundamental difference between reactionary and emotional behaviors that borders on vigilantism as opposed to authentic and sound law enforcement mechanisms commonly employed by our police officers. At the end of the day, one of your many under work / unemployed lawyers will represent the ‘alleged culprits’ and they’ll have the last laugh because their constitutional rights were abused.
    It would be interesting to know if such genuine excitements will prevail about soldiers usurping and undermining the police in similar fashion in other parts of the country which we shall leave unmentioned for the time being.
    I am very happy to see what no one died in the process as well as the end result of any final investigation that will follow what from all appearance was an execution.

  • there will always be collateral damage

  • There can be no worst feeling in the world than to have a well trained guy with absolutely nothing worthwhile to do apart from an occasional Independence Day parade. I know for a fact that many of our boys in green do not mind doing the law enforcement work. I suggested some time ago that we partially follow the lead by the original Iron Lady from Dominica – Madame Eugene Charles. Create a new FBI style police unit, cut the military strength in half and absorb them into this body. Ensure that they get the necessary legal evidence and procedure training common to police. This particular unit can I am sure, get the support of all the political elements in the country. They’ll follow the law, override the police where questionable practices occurs, and address the needs of the people- security/justice/accountability. These haphazard joint exercises won’t cut it as the long term goal of justice and compliance with the law can never be a factor. Sorry, just wishful thinking on my part. Talk is cheap. We have another festival to prepare for.

  • Shah never ceases to amaze by his boasting about all the illegal activities he participated in. The sad part is he thinks of himself as a national hero.

    If Shah was an intelligent man or at the very least a fair man, he would not only advocate the army going in to basically take revenge on the killing of one of their own but he should also advocate the army going in and meeting out punishment on their own when they participate in kidnappings and other illegal activities.

    We have see all over the world that the military does not have what it take to run a country except the ability to enforce martial law. The latest example is the Junta in Burma and their ineffectiveness to deal with a national disaster.

  • I WANT TO SAY THAT GOD RULES. NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO. GOD RULES. AND MAN WILL HAVE HIS TIME AND GOD WILL TAKE HIS TIME TO DOWHAT HE HAS TO DO. BUT IN HTE EVENT IT WILL BE DONE. AND ALOT OF OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS/AREON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE FENCE. THEY NEED TO STICK TO THE OATH OF PROTECTING AND SERVING THEIR PEOPLE. NOT SERVING THEIR SELVES. CORRUPTION IS BIG IN THIS COUNTRY. BUT THE ONES THAT ARE DOING THE CRIMES, LIKE THE DRUG LORDS AND MOSBTERS, ARE ONLY MAKING IT EASY FOR THOSE IN AUTHOURITY TO GAIN MORE THAN THEY WOULD REALIZE

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