Army backlash was predictable

By Raffique Shah
July 06, 2014

Raffique ShahIt was only a matter of time before soldiers decided to intervene directly to protect their own, to exact justice if not revenge, against two-bit criminals who dare to attack, to murder, their comrades.

Civil society can shout till it is hoarse about the illegality of the troops imposing a measure of martial law in what have become war zones, they cannot stop the backlash. A few weeks ago I warned the populace, especially the bad boys and their family and community support bases, of this happening.

When soldiers going about their normal duties or living their normal lives are targeted by criminals who feel they own “turfs” and “territories”, and when the powers that be fail to stop such lawlessness, the army will move in and fill the vacuum.

The madness that has descended on this society, huge swathes of urban communities reduced to fiefdoms ruled by gun-toting gangsters who arrogate unto themselves the powers of life and death, who dictate how the majority of law-abiding residents live or die, someone has to impose order.

The military is best positioned to intervene. It comprises a body of officers who have trained as leaders to take charge in crisis-situations where others buckle or succumb to fear. These officers lead soldiers who are trained to dispense violence in clinical, extreme ways. Unlike the police, soldiers are not about subduing riotous elements. They are trained to kill.

In a situation where the civilian leadership has collapsed, who or what will act decisively to restore order? Who will rid the society of the “dons” who have assumed powers that politicians believe they have but fail to exercise?

Out of naked fear, successive political directorates have bowed to criminals, meeting and treating with them around executive conference tables, awarding them lucrative contracts, recognising them as community leaders, and worse.

When ordinary, law-abiding citizens cannot access their parliamentary representatives or ministers to pursue legitimate issues, these officials have an open-door policy towards gangsters.

Today, billions of dollars that could help alleviate the distress of the poor or the discomfort of diligent youths who seek to sustain themselves and their families through legitimate pursuits are diverted into the bloodstained hands of bandits, murderers and rapists. This travesty is all around us—from deep in rural districts to the seedy alleys of urban communities.

The pillage straddles age-old programmes such as URP and CEPEP as well as new beasts disguised in the names of sport and culture, all designed to keep the poor trapped in persistent poverty while they enrich the bold and the ugly who use guns as their bargaining chips.

We, the people, have sat and watched this descent into a living hell, powerless to do anything about it.

Well, enough is enough. The soldiers have decided to act, be it within or peripherally outside the bounds of legitimacy, to collar the beast, and if need be, kill it. The only caveat I would ask the troops to observe is to protect the innocent, to respect the rights of law-abiding citizens.

I have been mulling over this development for some time now. It seemed inevitable in the face of a virtual abdication of responsibility, of power, by those so endowed by the Constitution.

It is not the first time that the troops have had to intervene to protect their own and to punish those who see them as uniformed glamour boys, even as toy soldiers.

In May 1963, some sixteen months before I enlisted, two truckloads of soldiers invaded Carenage and beat the crap out of whatever “bad boys” they managed to corner (many of the offenders had apparently been tipped off and fled) in the night-life town where off-duty troops of the newly formed Regiment used to lime.

Ever since the Regiment first moved into Teteron in October 1962, and nearby Carenage became the only recreation town available to them, the bad-Johns of the district would corner isolated soldiers, beat, slash, even rob them. Reports to the police went unheeded: the cops and the bad boys both disliked the sharp-looking soldiers.

The incident that triggered the assault was the knifing of the popular Sergeant Sydney Brown, who, ironically, had left the police to join the Regiment.

In a well-executed attack, the soldiers laid waste many of the bars in Carenage, overturned cars, thrashed jukeboxes and beat civilians. Of course there was an outcry, and an inquiry followed. But no action was taken against any soldier—and Carenage was tamed.

There were other acts of retaliation in my time, always targeting the culprits, never law-abiding civilians. Invariably, they achieved their objectives. I am not here justifying these assaults, not from a legal standpoint anyway.

But there is a bond among servicemen that is incomprehensible to civilians. Here you have large numbers of young men (and now women) thrown together as recruits. They undergo harsh discipline and training. They eat, sleep, live, work together. They become family.

Touch one, touch all. Kill one…well, brakes for your behind. I’ll return to this topic soon.

(I dedicate this column to Ma Doris Richens, mother to many soldiers, who passed on last Monday. Rest in peace, Grand Old Lady.)

5 thoughts on “Army backlash was predictable”


    ‘Me think,’ someone has a serious hard on for young males, with many kids , folks.
    A 33 year old , ‘role model soldier ,’with 8 kids, slaughtered with 30 plus bullets , in Brazilian Favella like ,JohnJohn/ Lavantille ,and now ,a 39 year old with five kids, along with his law abiding buddy , shot in their respective heads, and left to die on the roadway like a lazy ,Sangre Grande macajuel snake, crossing the Manzanilla stretch.

    “As anxious relatives waited outside the truck, the body was placed on a gun carriage as Thomas’ children, accompanied by their respective mothers, congregated…. …..’ ahhh Prison Commissioner…”later described Thomas as the “epitome of selflessness!”

    Yeah ,Prison Commissioner Conrad, he certainly was, after trying to raise 8 kids, from different baby mamas, on a paltry Military salary, in crime infested, gang laden Lavantille.
    Now they are all left alone, to struggle to read adulthood, with overwhelmed mamas.
    As for yours truly? Let’s just say, overkill, then to have me a wee bit worried , as oftentimes , ‘me think,’that , there is more than ‘the pestle in the mortar.’
    Need I mention ,high end ,Legal luminary,Dana Setahal ,still unsolved murder ten feet from her home.
    Former Extra Foods, female CEO , Ms Naipaul, kidnapped in her home,as her allegedly adoring husband , cleaned his nails , sip a cold Stag, then conveniently forgot to call the Cops , until what,some 3 hrs elapse?
    Our decent Soldier, visiting his dear, now distraught mom,and now two peaceful friends -one a “fun loving teddy bear,”and the other father of 5, also a caring , make shift papa ,to his incarcerated brother ,5 kids-driving their expensive Nissan van, laden with drugs, and loose,hundred dollar bills, along quiet T&T roads.
    May our patrolling soldiers ,find ways to solve these crimes, before the acquisition of their expensive, armored vehicles, Rudy Giuliani , master crime plan , comes into effect, or worst yet,heads of the Police Social and Welfare Association, the Ag Commissioner of Police , or area Political Representative ,gets heart attacks, due to the increased presence of angry , out of control , testosterone laden, revengeful soldiers, taking laws into their own hands , by conducting solo -Martial law type- patrols,as if this was some backward,’Tin pan ,’undemocratic ,military style Republic fiefdom,such as Fiji, Haiti ,Sri Lanka,Nigeria, Pakistan,or Burma.
    I luv dis land , Y tu?

    1. Just to let some of us know that Nigeria has not be ruled by the military in years. Do the military still try to influence? Yes. Nigeria biggest problem is their regional ethnic rivalry that hamper effective governance

  2. “The military is best positioned to intervene. It comprises a body of officers who have trained as leaders to take charge in crisis-situations where others buckle or succumb to fear. These officers lead soldiers who are trained to dispense violence in clinical, extreme ways. Unlike the police, soldiers are not about subduing riotous elements. They are trained to kill.”….Raffique
    There seems to be a pre-occupation with the idea of the army coming out “to kill” by some members of the government and other civilians as well. For those enamored by the idea, I would like to ask a simple question, then what? the conundrum that the country faces with the crime situation is a precarious one for which there are no answers, but to find one we must! From what we have seen so far, government’s solution is to “bring in the army, give them police powers of arrest”, “set out the dogs of war”, “lock den up”, “engage the youths by spending large amounts of money thru the Life Sports program me”, “bring Rudy Guilliani”, “bring Bill Bratton”, “go to England and engage the services of the crime fighting gurus there”, these and many many many more suggestions have been brought forward by the powers that be, all to no avail! Why are we so impotent in the fight against crime? The answers might be that we are fighting and looking in the wrong places. Why can’t we for once, try to do something on our own, using our own resources, and applying our own remedies that will reduce the scourge once and for all? Going to war and fighting sounds like a solution but is not a solution all by itself, getting the help of the Army to accompany the police is a help but not a solution, asking Guilliani and others for help is a help but not a solution. Having a minister of national security shouting from the top of his voice how he is going to beat fire with fire sounds good but will not do us any good. Having a loud mouth AG shouting about the weapons of war sounds good but will do us no good. Having a PM sending her dogs off war to war, sounds good but will do us no good. We can humbly begin “the war” by being nice, yes nice. Let us gathers the statistics of crime and do some analysis on the cases of study. There is no doubt we will find gangs; drugs; importers of drugs; distributors of drugs; street retailers of drugs; hired guns; bandits; in the social arena we will find the white collar thieves; wife beaters; children abusers; financial opportunists like the FCB debacle; contractors with over-priced submissions etc etc etc. Since the type of crime that we all afraid of are the ones that can cause bodily injury, we might want to focus on that first. With the information gathered about these crimes, we can set out to do something about them by looking for long term solutions (no short term shenanigans will work). The resources we may have to invest in are the use of law-enforcement, sociologists, medical personnel, education specialists, reformers, planned developers, career centered programs, community builders, military oriented youths camps like the cadet force, girl guides, girl scouts, boy scouts, there must also be training in areas such as childhood, motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood and sociology. This can be done by using local resources 100%. No high-priced crime sleuths with ‘out of this world ideas’ but solutions that work best on paper. We can be determined with planned developmental ideas, committed personnel and honest solution seekers. Such solutions MUST BE FREE FROM POLITICS for a good outcome. If such local remedy can be instituted I’m sure that over a period of time there will be positive results. If the motive is to say that “over my watch crime was reduced by .03 percent, then forget it! There must be honest commitment where all of the stakeholders must be honest and not seeking political favors. We must seek solutions that amenable to the committed crimes, we must avoid lout-mouths who believe that by sounding tough, means they are tough. Crime solutions calls for honest crime fighters who are willing to seek solutions outside the box of tried and failed ideas. Armored cars are a waste of money and time, bringing in expensive college professors are a waste of time and it is also a waste of time seeking the advice of politicians. Lets get hardworking and honest professionals to make dent on this thing. Sidney Brown mentored me as a young soldier and I’m sure that he would have preferred to know that from 1962 to now we would have mastered the art of soldier-civilian conflict by negotiating better ways of living together than retaliation. So, in his memory can we try something new by doing our own thing, without the high-priced solutions that always fail?

  3. This sounds a lot like the parents who like to beat kids and then wonder why their children disrespect them after. War and violence poison hearts and minds they do not make society safer.

    Take your soldiers and go after the big fish, then we can talk.

  4. It was WW1 French Premier, George Clemenceau
    who once claimed , that  “War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.”
    ‘Me think,’no truer statement was ever made, and the reason I say this should be obvious , as history would indicate.
    Soldiers jobs are to kill,and follow orders given by civilians, more attuned to wider , subtle realities /big picture.
    To this I’ll add,Policing, is too important….well, you are smart enough to know , where I am heading with that thought,as far as such relate to present day T&T.
    Both Pakistan, and Nigeria, are two countries with the most in common, when it comes to obsessions by military bozos , who repeatedly dabble,in civilian , and political life in their respective nations.
    Ain’t surprising Kian , that the former can’t win a border skirmish with Afgan warlords, or rabid Indian ,Hindustani Kashmir rebel insurgents , much less, a war with anyone, or handle a national disaster , when required.

    As for the latter,their record are well known as well, as Islamist religious goons , are terrorizing , mainly Christian villages, and they too are powerless to do anything.

    Don’t worry Kian , let these clueless elites , keep playing with these ‘maribunta/jacksSpania nest.’
    We know how that script will eventually play itself out, when many start getting stinh, left right , and center , in their gated communities as well.
    Our Uncle Shah ,and Cuz Griffith,keep confusing high end, elite ,Military officers like they were, with regular, frustrated , often simi -educated ,enlisted men , at the lower echelons of society, who joined the work , only because they could not find a job, or wanted to learn how to shoot a rifle, and feel the power from so doing.
    Hey Kian ,do some research, and look through list of T&T Military officers, from 1962 to present day.
    I will send you my email, and you can contact me for $10 ,000:00,if you can find a 33 year old Westpoint, School of the Americas,or Sandhurst trained bloke , who has 8 kids by age 33, with various women from the hood.
    Have fun mi amigo.

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