By Cecil Paul
September 04, 2011
“We must recognize that it is people looking like me, who are being murdered, mothers like my mother…weeping more than any other race”…”When we see the accused being led away, being led to court, it is people who look like me”…”When one looked at the prison population in 2011, 51% are Afro Trinidadians”. (Minister of National Security John Sandy)
These are some of the words spoken in Parliament on Friday, September 2nd 2011 on the reasons for his Government’s declaration of a State of Emergency and the need for an extension of the current Emergency Regulations as a result of escalating crime in the country.
I chose these words as it is my view that it exposes his and his government’s views on the reasons for the serious crime environment in our country: AFRO YOUTHS AND AFRO YOUTHS ONLY ARE THE CAUSE OF THE CRIME WAVE IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO.
My deep concern for the remarks is that the Minister seems to be alluding by his emphasis on Afro-Trinbagonians, particularly young Afro Trinbagonians adults, that they are solely responsible for high crime rates in the country and are the cause for the State of Emergency. This is the same Minister and others in Government a few weeks ago who boasted about the drop in murders and other crimes in the country.
He then justifies his case for an extension of the SoE by referencing the high incidence of crime and the over representation of Afro-Trinbagonians killed through crime and their high percentage of the prison population.
Now, what is the reason for this group counting? What does Minister Sandy hope to achieve? Why brand and blame (by emphasising “ethnicity”) all Afro-Trinbagonian youths for the wrongs of 890 (51%) of the prison population in 2011 (his figures)?
So why not state which groups represent the 49%? Why no mention of crimes committed by other “ethnic” groups. Or is it a direct attack by Minister Sandy and his PP Government to demoralise and waste down a large segment of the population that are known to be supporters of the Opposition?
Is Minister Sandy engaging in “ethnic bashing and victimization” for political purposes? Or is he just a flaky politician who fails to recognize that he is provoking antagonism among the diverse groups in the country? There are an estimated 390,000 Afro-Trinbagonians youths in the country, yet Minister Sandy by his reference to “ethnicity’ blames all of them for the crimes of 890 (0.25%) of the Afro-Youths.
Trinidad and Tobago consists of an estimated population of 1.3 million people. 38 % are Afro, 40% Indo, Mixed are estimated at 20%, Euros 1%, Arabs, First Peoples and Chinese constitute the rest (1%). We live in a multi-ethnic country which is a great advantage for economic, cultural and social development. Our society is richer for our diversity.
Our space is small (1,980sq.m) and we cannot avoid integration (despite the gated upper class communities). Socialization among all cultures is visible and the growing mixed group indicate a high level of inter relationships among our peoples. So what we see developing is the creation of a distinct Trinbagonian culture and people which is indeed very healthy.
So, why does a Government Minister see the need to identify Crime with one group in justifying the reasons for a state of emergency and the need for an extension? The youths involved in Crime are our youths, our families and friends’ families, our children and our grand children. They are citizens of our country. Their lawlessness and crimes affect all of us. Why this zeroing on “people who look like me” and “Mothers crying who look like my Mother”?
Why are crime-fighting and the need to curb, control and punish crime take on a racist overture? Why is this Minister of Government playing the “Race Game”? And most important, why are elements of this society stereotyping all Afro youths for the criminal behaviour of less than I% (actually 0.25%) of the Afro youth population, while de-emphasizing crimes committed by youths of other cultural groups. What are the percentages of youths of other groups? Did Minister Sandy and Warner not research these figures?
Why is the Minister not pinpointing the contribution of the majority of Afro Youth in Academics, Science, Cultural Art Forms, Sports and other areas? What of the contribution of Afro youths in Mas, Pan and Calypso? Why is he crucifying Afro Youths for the violent behaviour of less than 1% of their population? Crime is Crime and Violent Crime must not be viewed from racist lens but as a serious social problem that must be dealt with urgently with intelligence and understanding and without the racist, obscene and ignorant rantings of desperate vulgar politicians.
In any mature, ethical and moral society, Minister Sandy and Minister Warner would have been called upon to resign by the Prime Minister for their racist and dangerous statements in the highest court of the land. Their racist statements undermine peaceful relationships among the diverse groups in our country.