Rowley cannot solve our crime problem

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 23, 2024

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeKeith Rowley and his Government will not solve our growing crime problem for the simple reason that Rowley has become a part of the problem rather than part of a solution. He is much too arrogant, indecisive, ill-disciplined and un-inspirational to lead such a vital national effort.

First. He says that Trinidad and Tobago is a violent society, but exempts himself from that national condition. If his description is true, we are all infected with that virus. However, Rowley is mistaken in one regard. He feels that only physical violence matters. He does not realise that verbal violence—a product of the same society of which he is a part—is as bad as physical violence and may be the precursor to physical violence. Rowley practises verbal violence against the nation each day.

Second. Rowley is the personification of arrogance. He does not seem to care about anyone except himself. The word arrogance comes from the Latin arrogans, which means overbearing. Arrogance, defined as “overbearing pride or haughtiness”, is akin to hubris which, in Greek drama, leads to the downfall of the hero. Greek tragedians called this the fatal flaw.

Third. Rowley’s logic is deficient when he makes a correlation between economic growth and crime reduction. He says he will not call a state of emergency because it would “disrupt the economy recovery that we have been working towards and hoping to experience more going forward” (Express, January 19).

Over the last 15 years approximately $900 billion (in today’s currency) have passed through our national economy even as crime has escalated proportionately. Rowley should explain how a greater inflow of money into the economy will lead to a decrease in crime.

There might be a connection between greater employment opportunities (that is, jobs) and the reduction of crime, but such economic stimulus must come from more economic activity in the depressed urban areas.

Four. Indecisiveness. Rowley claims that when he was in Parliament, “a budget had a programme of affirmative action to treat young men in the urban areas who had begun to drift away into criminality… They [the UNC] accused me of racism but the chickens have come home to roost. That was 15 years ago… Rowley vowed to implement the programme, saying he would ‘brook no obstruction from anyone on the other side'”. (Express, January 20.)

Question: If that programme is so good and essential, why did it take eight years after PNM got into power to reconsider implementing it?

Five. Lack of respect for PNM’s political wisdom. Panday dies. In the latter part of his life he had called for constitution reform. Before you can say “Jack Robinson”, Rowley names a constitutional committee that is thin in talent and lacking in varied experience. Few of its members understand our constitutional history.

Ashton Ford, former PNM secretary, recalls the PNM’s approach to this issue: “Before the 1976 general election, the PNM government promised constitutional changes following nationwide consultation headed by Sir Hugh Wooding. At the party level, George Chambers took the lead when his constituency triggered constitutional change by moving a motion at the general council to transform T&T to republican status.” (January 19, 2022.)

Some people call Rowley’s approach to constitutional reform authoritarianism. The Cabinet cannot speak for the party.

Six. At this time, the fight against crime is more important than constitutional reform.

Seven. Contradictory omens. Rowley announces that he would send the Defence Force “into at-risk communities to provide the support needed to ensure safety and opportunity for the people of those communities”. While the presence of more manpower would deter some forms of crime, it will not enhance the community’s well-being.

Why? That which is at heart a social, cultural and educational problem is reduced to a criminal problem. The Defence Force and its machine guns will not clear up what the police have been unable to do for the past 15 years.

Eight. Stay home. After Rowley made his pronouncements, he headed off to Washington to discuss the crime problem with US officials. He confesses: “The criminals start off before the gun is fired in this race; they are ahead of the police… and to catch up with them, you require trustworthiness in the Police Service.”

Instead of running around the globe, Rowley should stay at home for the next six months, go to about 20 communities, and discover, with the people, the best way to solve the crime problem. He may find out that the community can provide better approaches to the problem than the so-called experts who have failed us so far.

Nine. Follow UNC’s lead. Two weeks ago the UNC hosted its anti-crime symposium at La Joya. The Guardian editorialised: “[It] reinforced just how desperately members of the public feel about the problems of crime.” (January 17.) Let John Public engage the problem where they live. They may uncover some things that we don’t know.

Ten. We can only solve our crime problem when we pay the same attention to the white-collar criminals as we do to the “miscreants” on the periphery of the society. Wouldn’t it be nice if the present ministers of government and their immediate family tell us what their overall wealth was in 2015 and what it is today? That might be a good way to start cleaning up our communities and establishing trustworthiness in our police and our parliamentary representatives.