By Raffique Shah
April 23, 2023
In warfare, any kind of warfare, whatever the size, strengths and weaknesses between and among the combatants, what any general will enjoy fighting against, is an enemy divided. In World War II for example, the Allied Forces comprised most of Europe except, of course, Germany and Italy on one front, Japan on another and remnants of the Ottoman Empire on a third. Among themselves the impressive Allied leadership— Generals such as Montegomery, Eisenhower, Wavell among a phalanx of highly experienced and well respected, one might say tactical geniuses, had to cope with the egos of Charles De Galle and Winston Churchill, both of whom were themselves military geniuses.
I had wandered far from my focus today, which of course is crime and the criminals seeming to have the upper-hand against the forces of law and order, a political directorate that seems to not have common thought, and sundry individual professionals— at least that’s what they call themselves, in open verbal warfare among themselves, even as the criminals clearly gain the upper-hand. The gangsters can guarantee to deliver two to five corpses a day. The forces of law, order, and Justice cannot now even pretend to weaken the gangs or halt their rampage across the country. The citizenry must feel like harmless and helpless animals caught in the cross-hairs of lethal weapons both combatants carry. It’s not that they are without blame, their helplessness is mostly fashioned by their right index fingers, which, election after election, year after year, vote into office or opposition the same politicians who have proved to be incapable of dealing with crime among other deficiencies. Whatever may happen henceforth politically, will hardly change the crisis.
You’d think that in the face of the current near-massacre the criminals are subjecting their victims to, the masses will have learnt that they need to unite as a people and not as temporary political allies that will surely collapse even before the guns go silent. No, not my people. The divisions which some politicians have carved into their very beings seem to be like tattoos. Indelible marks that permanently casts them in one ethnic camp or other. Oh, they will tell you that is not so. That they have repeatedly come together and even formed new parties that were supposed to signal the end of the politics of race. But it is so imbedded in their systems, not even a relatively small band of brigands, thieves and murderers who are robbing, beating and killing them, terrorizing families, communities, hell, the whole damn country. And, these fools cannot even see that. It infuriates me that fifty years after we stood for Black power, fought for recognition of non-whites as human beings that we still have today, to endure the politics of race. It gets worse though. If one can excuse the masses for moving and dealing with their day to day problems— crime being one of the most serious we have had to live with for so long. Their leaders seem to be prepared to exploit every drop of blood spilt, the fear injected not just in households, but in communities, in fact in the whole damn country. And all the leaders can see in this reign of terror is votes, power, maybe even wealth.
So last weekend when some CARICOM leaders and representatives of all the governments met in Port of Spain for a two-day symposium on crime, so bold are the criminals that the delegates might have heard the staccato sound of gunfire as they drove through sections of the country or stayed up late at nights preparing for the following day’s proceedings. These criminals have no respect for anyone, least of all for the politicians. They have mastered the manipulation of the power hungry whom they use in and out of elections and who unashamedly associate with these beasts who provide them with gun-support by instilling fear especially among the few law abiding citizens who remain ‘clean’ in such communities.
Therein lies the core problem of reducing or hoping to eliminate murder and other forms of violence. They amass personal wealth by ‘taxing’ every contractor who operates in their territories forcing small establishments to also pay them in order to be allowed to continue to operate. Similar dues are extracted from salesmen for varying products that are sold. All that I have written here is well known to the police and the politicians. The lawmen simply turn a blind-eye to grand theft for fear of their lives and those of their families. The politicians pretend they do not know so they live to survive another term of office.
For these reasons, no amount of symposiums or consultations or town meetings or expensive CCTV systems will bring any relief. It’s almost as if this anarchy accompanies those commissioned to eradicate it, but which all of us know will continue unabated.