By Raffique Shah
January 23, 2023
Will the Prime Minister tell the nation what he expects to achieve by staging a national consultation on crime, which he announced recently? When he made the headline-grabbing proposal, which seemed to me an outburst triggered by extreme frustration, Dr Keith Rowley came across as a leader who had nothing more to offer the population on the one issue that impacts their lives daily, although statistics might well reveal that in reality, fewer that ten percent of them have come face-to-face with violent crimes, and far fewer have been victims.
If I may misquote the scriptures, all the holy books tell us, ‘…There is a time for peace and a time for war; there is a time for talk and a time for action’, the latter being my insertion. The youngsters who commit violent crimes that terrorise the citizenry and destabilize the country comprise at most a few hundred mainly urban children. Their parents, their teachers, community leaders in the society at different levels ought to have inculcated into them values they should seek to uphold, reasons why they should stay on the ‘straight and narrow’.
They, and others from across the spectrum of ethnicities that make this one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world, can never complain of not having enjoyed opportunities on offer in education and training for the job-market. Trinidad and Tobago is among the few countries in the world that educates, for close to free, those who are willing to work hard from primary to tertiary levels.
Mr. Prime Minister, you are engaging in wastage of both time and money, while the criminals, who may well be participants in your consultation help themselves generously to what is served, at the expense of the public.
On this issue of runaway crime, you have done little or nothing to stem its tide. What you seem not to understand is that crime has reached proportions so immense that nobody has any constructive solution to get us out of this mess. We —and I mean all or most citizens— have worked very hard to ensure we got nowhere.
We can all point fingers at each other since crime is not a partisan thing, but a product most citizens allowed to degenerate into the unholy mess it is today. It’s not that there is no solution: there are several options that the society may wish to implement as they hit the ‘panic’ button. A quick-fix that you may implement tonight: start with a State of Emergency and the armed services overwhelm the nests infested by these human termites. Lock-up or shoot as many as you can before dawn and we should rid ourselves of maybe ten percent of the pests. That however, may be unpalatable to the very society who are calling for action. But, if we examine the problem carefully— two to three murders a night, scores of robberies etc— this option may be the only way to go.
Lastly, when an anti-crime squad in the police service setup a sting operation and mowed down three of four confirmed culprits, social media ‘professionals’ applauded. The populace fed-up with an unbridled attack on their persons, properties and loved ones will easily buy a bloody war— we the people against them the criminals, damn the consequences. Of course the hypocrites, prime among them politicians who seek to reap benefits from the crime-fest, will howl bloody murder. Attorneys by the bus loads and plane loads will be heading to courts from Talparo to Turkey to have you and members of the government and service forces deemed, well, super-criminals. That they don’t have any solutions to the mayhem and murders we face is immaterial to that lot. They are part of the problem therefore they cannot be part of the solution.
Still, in a world immersed in hypocrisy, they will find favour with judges and before you know it, you and I could be in chains, shackled like slaves but this time inside the highest criminal courts in the world. Note I included myself. I did this because of the extreme measures I have suggested here, and I am not the kind of person to mouth off on something, land you in trouble and I run and hide.
Whichever way this crime fight goes, your party, The PNM, will be in big trouble come elections 2024 and beyond. Already the forces that are moving to get you out of office are smelling blood. If you do nothing, they will use that to vote you out. Should you go for my suggestion, they will get you on that too. You are in the classical Catch 22: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But if you and your party must go down in this fight to restore normality in this country, go down like a man, a leader who took extreme measures in a situation that demanded you do.