Squandering Emergency Gains

By Raffique Shah
September 18, 2011

Raffique ShahMANY moons ago—I must have been age 15, still attending college—a simple incident exposed me to the abuse of power, authority, uniform, maybe a combination of all these, by certain police officers. We Form Four or Five boys, as we awaited the bus to take us to our home districts, used to lime in a concrete drain (it was clean and offered some shade) that we had christened “Canal Park”.

We engaged in normal activities boys of that age would, poking fun at someone in the lime or at a hapless passer-by, trying to attract the attention of girls from nearby schools in Chaguanas, and similar harmless fun. It was a good way of de-stressing following a hard day in classes. After all, we were mostly bright boys who were pressured into delivering results that would enhance the Presentation College (Chaguanas) reputation.

One afternoon, we spotted Seeram, an ex-student who had left college to join what was then the Police Force. That he had not sat exams signalled he was not bright—which was no sin, not in our eyes anyway. Other boys had dropped out, or, having failed exams, had gone into the Force or pursued some vocation. So we saw Seeram, who was striding in our direction in uniform, as a friend.

“Seeram!” someone among us shouted, “how yuh going, boy?” Seeram pretended not to hear. Someone else tried to attract his attention. He stopped. The scowl on his face told us he was not pleased with our friendly gesture.

“Who de hell allyuh calling Seeram?” he shouted, trying to look tough. “Ah is a policeman…have some rispek for mih before ah lock up allyuh arse!” With that, he turned and walked away, leaving us in shock.

None of us had disrespected Seeram, who, besides being dunce, was “mousey” when he attended college. But the uniform made him “bad”, and, I imagine, he was envious of the “Canal Park” lime that would go on to produce many a scholar.

I was reminded of that incident with Seeram when I watched two senior officers confront unionists Michael Annissette and Ancel Roget in Tobago last Thursday. I did not hear all of what the officers told the unionists, but what caught my attention was when the junior officer said, “Doh feel yuh could come to Tobago and do what you can’t in Trinidad!” That simple statement was loaded. It suggested that the officer harboured antipathy towards unionists or Trinidadians, or maybe he was just being boorish. From what I heard and saw, Roget and Annissette showed no disrespect to the officers. They however insisted on their right to meet with their members. The police decision to disallow such meeting was unjust.

In the midst of the Emergency, I have seen a Police Youth Club march in public accompanied by “noisy instruments”, big corporations conduct promotions with full sound systems, and other activities staged that are noisier than union meetings. Hell, even “curfew parties” are not prohibited, although there is a belated effort to curb them.

Maybe the regulations prohibit public meetings—I don’t know, not having seen or read them. If this is the case, it reeks of a denial of rights that cannot be justified. It also gives currency to the unions’ claims that the Emergency was targeting them, not the criminals. There is no need for this measure since trade unions hardly undermine the country’s security as they pursue their members’ interests.

But back to the police, to the many reports of abuse of power we have seen since the imposition of the Emergency. Most officers cannot properly interpret laws and in the State of Emergency, regulations. A squad almost arrested a CCN journalist because his curfew pass did not have the vehicle number. There is no such requirement. I am certain that every day there is similar abuse of power, partly because of ignorance, and partly because of the attitude, “Me police, you dog turd!”

I don’t know if police training includes how officers interact with citizens, especially the law-abiding. I have met numerous officers who are professional and courteous, and who, even if someone unintentionally breaches a regulation or law, handle the matter with tact. That’s how it should be. But that’s not what we see as the Emergency continues.

The danger here is while most people look forward to the Emergency delivering us from the crime tsunami by the time it is lifted, abuse of power by some powerfully stupid officers could alienate citizens who could be helpful in the continuing war against crime and criminals. Since the Emergency will not eliminate crime, we will need all hands on deck in its aftermath, in what effectively is a war without end.

We cannot allow a few stupid police officers (and soldiers!), modern-day “Seerams”, to squander the gains made during the Emergency. People are making tremendous sacrifices by giving up many of their rights, by conforming to a curfew that is punishing. Business is losing money, workers face reduced earnings and other strictures, and the lower strata of the society are suffering…very quietly.

The Government and the security forces must not take these things for granted. They must not use their powers under the Emergency to neutralise trade unions. Nor must they allow rogue elements to run riot, to target young people as if they are all criminals. They must end the Emergency soon, restoring citizens’ rights, and enlisting their support in the protracted war against crime.

5 thoughts on “Squandering Emergency Gains”

  1. A very good human story, a well balance article, all must share in he restoration of our beloved nation.

  2. Uncle Shah trying to play magician I see.Denouncing Police officers ,for being abusive, as they gratefully spend their extra $1000 TT pittance, but silent as a mouse ,when his boys in green ,were running all over Diego Martin, terrorizing citizens, a few months ago, looking for alleged criminals. Wake me up when this undermentioned story ,get to the front page , or garner the required outrage ,Uncle Shah.


    Did I not tell you once before, in the words of the smoking bomb, military guru Colin , ‘if you break it ,you own it?’ You were the one who clamored for this draconian politics, while demonizing one group only , so take what you get politically, as the PP led by your Field Marshall boy, has a mandate, yes?Oh yes, we know who is in charge of this caboose.
    In the interim ,enjoy the ride , but make sure you and your crew ,are in bed by 10 pm. It’s dem Bajans,and Jamaican, Carnival organizing committee , and business Chambers ,that are laughing all the way to the bank.
    But I digress, please , no attempts at magic, for dat’s not how politics it works, in trying to have one’s cake ,and eat it .
    I again beseech you guys to leave our overwhelm law enforcement officers in Blue , alone,and instead place your blame exactly where it belong , at the feet of a confused , over zealous regime, headed my a modern day Iron lady, attempting to micromanage the Security , and Judicial services, forcing cronies within their ranks, and in the case of our Police, putting a European Canadian in charge , as if such follies would make them more compliant to narrow ,politically driven agendas.
    Ah tell you, these military blokes ,never ceases to amaze me folks . Each and every one of them naively holds on to this preposterous notion, that indulging in a six months crash course in political science while in training , suddenly can propel them into some high end politician down the road, or worst yet, an authority on such.
    In the mean time they all make some of the idiotic decisions imaginable ,in and out of uniform ,that it’s a wonder any could have ever lead a few 14 year old boys scout, to victory, over their girls guides counterparts- in cake sale ,I should add.
    Look at the track record of the following ,and prove me wrong;- Napoleon, Colin Powell,Chavez,John Mc Cain, School of America one time Panamanian head Student,and G H Bush CIA manipulated puppet ,Manuel Noriega, life time ideological fraud Castro ,Jewish megalomaniacs Netanyahu , and the criminal rotund Sharon , aka Butcher of Lebanon , delusional anti terrorist ,Pakistan Musharaf, the two cowardly Islamist bozos ,Qaddafi,and Iraqi cousin Saddam Hussain, ID Amin ,and to top it off ,our own Field Marshall Sandy, de suddenly hard working ,Minister of National Security , who I am certain Uncle Shah, thinks is doing such a superb job, as a manager today, even if he could not control his own indiscipline , weed smoking, out of control guys down in de Tethron jungles, during, his stewardship.
    If you wish to know why Trade Union are today appearing to be irrelevant , then look no further than your government, as they have all been co-opted for a few dollars more. The entire Sugar Workers Union have lost their teeth , due to the efforts of the UNC, and the HUCU fiasco , is one such fall out ,whereby, hard working sugar workers , Southern ,and Central farmers were encouraged to only invest their hard earned savings, in quick rich ,ethnically controlled, Ponzi schemes,by destructive leaders, with no faith in the Unit Trust , and other properly managed , law abiding ,Credit Unions / nationalized banks ,then eventually blame everyone dead ,and alive from the PNM for their woes, while now awaiting compensations from their PP benefactors in power- after Clico of course ,whose head honcho ,was a philanthropic financier, of a certain PM’s kids, to London Law Schools.
    Your now grateful ( but don’t ask me why)UNC pit bull turned House speaker , Uncle Mark, along with brother David Abdullah , and once relevant George Weeks 1st Lieutenant ,in Errol Mc Cloud , are the front men in the beat down of the Trade Union movement, you fought so hard to empower. As for Basdeo, he remains more concern in seeing that Mikilah becomes the next Indra , to succeed him -the modern day Nehru ,and so revenge his fall from grace, under Queen K,and Chagurnas Jakie,if the MI5 , ain’t get the latter first, for embarrassing their entire football hooligan nation first,- as opposed to fully carrying through on his 40 year political, failed promise, of fully elevating all his people ,out of real poverty, as opposed to making too many, still slurp up an illusion ,that they are doing much better than every Afrikan in our country.
    You said the statement “Doh feel yuh could come to Tobago and do what you can’t in Trinidad,” was loaded, and was also attempting to ascertain, if the officer mentioned ,harbored antipathy ,towards … Trinidadians…?” Very astute of you Uncle Shah , and you know exactly why not only him , but every citizen on that neglected island,even you think can survive well enough on what TT $80,000 ,feels that way , and I might add ,justifiably so.
    Many are stupidly praying that both Patrick Manning , and the Tobago Wajang , Mason Hall kid , would publicly come to blows in the Red House Tea Room, while trying to determine , who did better in geology school as students, then Rowley would loose , and finally come home and take up the cause for long over due secession, as both partnerships can produce no good results. Now he can put that geology degree to good use in negotiating compensation for stolen m, wasted resources belonging to the Island Ward.
    Here is a suggestion I would have given to the PM free of charge and save us all some good sleep, while getting rid of crimes. Deport 60% of our lawyers , and have a moritoriom for 10 years on accepting any more lawyers to the Bar. Hire more police, and take the politicians feet of their backs. More importantly, do something about jobs, and since her government cannot hire any more, then encourage her business supporters to quit sitting on their treasures , and invest in T&T. Nuff Said.
    agree by the way with you , ‘no security , do development,’ but ,not only ‘physical security,’ Uncle Shah, ‘Human Security,’ Uncle Shah.
    Just like big brother America’s militaristic, war on terror, it will fail ,for hearts and minds is the way forward , yes?

  3. Law enforcement is the skeleton for the body of society. It must always be able to bend but not break. The laws must be enforced equally and consistently for society to grow economically, and socially. Good article!

  4. Neal,

    With such profound views I dare you to get on the beat and take your message to the people and win office and implement the views you plough in your comments.I dare you to do this, you know, because talk is cheap.

  5. Jads , you confused guys places too much merits solely on politics, and that is not only unfortunate , but tragic. As such ,half of our country’s citizens naively felt, that they could not do anything in terms of enhancing our nation , unless they are holding down the Prime ministerial position. Instead of using their economic , and political clout to effect positive changes … well, I don’t need to tell you what they have been doing , while enjoying all the spoils of our nation.
    The other half survived almost 40 years, of our 49 years of independence , and endured some of the worst political stewardships by selfish political leaders imaginable, in terms of social neglect, and overdue ‘Human Security protection,’ for a resourceful nation.
    “Take a message to people?” Which people are you really referring to our over zealous PP fan/ cool aid slurper? Before one can fully do that ,let me add, it is imperative that they be reeducated ,and incase you are un aware , this as a first step requires talk , which you in your obvious ignorance , consider’s as cheap.
    For the record Jads, this is not some clueless cyber yapper , but someone who has been in the global trenches , and fully recognize , the negative fall outs that can accrue, when closet barbarians, and or immoral political creatures , tries to run rough shod over the rights of people , ignore the needs of the oppressed , and un -empowered.
    19 years ago , I sat in this ex President palace , and listen as he too refused to comply to progressive prodding,to adhere to the needs of all his people ,in an ethnically fractured nation. His murderers today , I am certain ,were the same young innocent, neglected kids I saw ,as I traverse his country.


    Nuff said ?
    Your call Jadds. T&T , is part of the global village .

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