Wage war against criminals, not the media

By Raffique Shah
April 30, 2019

Raffique ShahGary Griffith’s unilateral declaration of a “cold war” on the conventional media in general, and the CCN Group in particular, was as predictable as it was inevitable. As a garrulous ex-military officer whose larger-than-life public image was literally forged by and in the mass media, he failed to understand that unlike publicists who are paid to promote a product or personality, successful media houses thrive on their fierce independence in disseminating news and views.

While Griffith was good “copy” for newspapers and radio and television stations from as far back as when he was military aide to then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, he became fair game for scrutiny and criticism once he entered the political arena. His exposure increased exponentially when he was appointed Commissioner of Police, the hottest of hot seats in the State apparatus, a job he campaigned for using—what else?—the media.

His recent fusillades of verbal fire that targeted this newspaper’s editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder was not merely misdirected (in the sense that she is not solely responsible for the contents of the publication), but also betrayed a measure of ingratitude towards an editorial team that was more than fair to him during the contentious selection process for the position of top cop.

Indeed, the Fourth Estate, in consonance with the wishes of the majority of the population, welcomed Griffith’s appointment, hoping that he would stem the tsunami of crime that has reduced this one-time paradise isle to a hell in which ghetto gunmen, sundry gangs, and a lawless and corrupt minority call the shots, quite literally. The law-abiding majority cower in the confines of their homes that are no longer safe havens, since they face invasions that often end with families being robbed of all their valuables, and increasingly, the lives of their loved ones.

Righting these wrongs, restoring law, order and justice to the extent that police powers permit them to act, these were what the media and the population expected of Griffith. No sane citizen thought he and the Police Service could do it overnight. He asked for one year to reverse the crime spiral: people were prepared to give him two, three, four years—as long as they saw incremental improvements, felt marginally safer every day.

To be fair to him, his Sandhurst-style leadership-from-the-front was a welcome change from the inertia that seemed to have paralysed most of his predecessors. And by design or happenstance, he enjoyed some successes, the highlights being the rescue of victims of kidnapping.

But the population judges the tide of crime by the number of murders and gun-related crimes that occur. And the numbers here are staggering: barring some miraculous intervention, murders will likely cross the 500 mark for the second consecutive year. More frightening are the increasing incidents of wild-west-style shootouts, presumably between gangs, that erupt day or night, mostly in so-called “hot spots”. These brazen battles endanger the lives of innocent citizens, including children attending schools.

Clearly, more guns are in the hands of criminals, and of greater concern, more ammunition. Griffith’s “one shot, one kill” policy does not apply to the gangsters. Theirs seems to be “one magazine, one kill”, or “shoot till you make the target a strainer”.

Not only do the criminals have more ammunition, and maybe even superior guns to the Protective Services’, but several people-in-the-know have told me that police officers and soldiers are afraid to enter districts like Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots and others. I cannot believe this. I think of my days as a young platoon commander and wonder if my men, especially No 6 Platoon, would have hesitated to run through any of these battle zones. I think not.

So if the media are focusing on shortcomings of the Commissioner, or questionable actions he has taken, they not only have a right to speak out, but to expect reasonable answers. Take the near-genuflection to reggae singer Buju Banton, which I found was unbecoming of the CoP, but which was fully endorsed by Minister Stuart Young and Prime Minister Keith Rowley. Three of the most senior officials in sovereign T&T would peddle bull that had Griffith did not apologised to the drug-felon for a search of his hotel room by members of the narcotics squad, Jamaicans might have boycotted T&T goods, and that Government might have even contemplated severing diplomatic relations with us.

What utter hogwash! The only explanation I can think of for Gary grovelling before Buju Banton, and Young and Rowley endorsing it, is that some obeah-man told them the ritual was critical to them winning the upcoming elections. I know that sounds outrageous, but what else could explain their conduct? Look, stop making us out as fools and do your juju in private. If you must be obsequious to someone with ankle-length dreadlocks who has immense talents, how about our own Roy “Pappy” Cape, or Black Stalin who, some years ago, was charged by the police for the possession of one “joint” of marijuana? One joint!

Remember when Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then PM, bowed and touched the feet of some Indian dignitary (India’s PM Modi?) how Rowley and the PNM criticised and ridiculed her? From my limited knowledge, that is how Hindus pay respect to their elders or seniors.

But back to Gary: he cannot consider himself above criticism by any citizen or media house. I am not suggesting that editors and journalists are infallible, that many practitioners are not sloppy and a few rude, or that the mainstream media have any special rights outside of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

By similar token, though, the CoP is a senior servant of the citizenry who must earn their respect by his every word and deed. Gary must stop being petulant, zip his lips and get down doing the job he was hired to do—bring crime under control. Get those guns out of the hands of criminals, and put the gunmen and gun dealers behind bars—permanently.

We have a war to wage and win. The time for talk has long expired.

11 thoughts on “Wage war against criminals, not the media”

  1. While I am normally in support of what Raff writes, I find this piece a mixture of commendation and fluff, while at the same time not necessarily informative. Lets start with crime. This is a topic that even for a well intentioned writer as Raff, seems to connote guns, violence, break-ins, domestic abuse, assault and battery and prostitution. It is my belief that the Police are doing a fair job with the limited resources at their disposal. I am equally concerned with harmful crimes that are not classified as such. Crimes like stealing from the public purse, corruption, stealing of public property, bribery, non reporting of taxes, misuse of state funds, extortion, re-direction of state spending, mismanagement of state funds, kick backs and apathy regarding responsible accounting of budgetary appropriations.
    Emphasis on the word ‘crime’ is focussed on the former rather than the latter. This is so because the crimes we are afraid of is mostly committed by the lower class and the ones we pay no attention to is considered white-collar, political or crimes committed by the affluent in our society.

    I happen to agree with Gary regarding the media. The so-called fourth estate is staffed with ill-informed, non professional and partisan hacks who use their statute to represent their political and social entities. Most of what they do is report the way they feel. They hardly inform the public and they lack investigative credibility. While I do not condone the use of street drugs of any kind, when a person has paid their debt to society by serving a prison sentence and rehabilitated in the general population, such person becomes an ordinary civilian. I say this to state my approval of Gary’s handling of Buju’s hotel botched search. The UNC, while in government has done everything it its power to make Jamaica a less than equal partner in the Caricom relationship. Dr Rowley used his office to make that relationship more amicable and less confrontational. Jamaica consider its entertainers a product and ill-treatment of them can affect its relationship with us. So it was wise by Gary to use his office to ensure that there is no mis-understanding.

    If anything, this article serves as a classic case on how we internalize what we see and understand differently. Media acts more as an opposition to the PNM than the UNC. They hide facts and promotes heresy.

  2. On this occasion Mr. Shah has outdone himself.His analysis of this Buju Banton charade hits the mark. I wondered who would have the courage and bravery to call this travesty for what it really is.Griffith’s genuflection and appearance on Buju’s stage was not only inappropriate but disgraceful.
    It is time for Griffith to stop the gun talk and posturing and get down to fighting crime. So far, he seems more focussed on public relations and imagery rather than progressive criminal investigations.He is also attempting to manipulate the crime statistics in his favor,but the actual numbers do not lie.

  3. IN Today’s Newsday headlines:
    “AG: Arrests not about politics but due process”
    “Persad-Bissessar: History of pre-election arrests”

    Today’s Loop headlines:
    “Anand Ramlogan arrested, Gerald Ramdeen turns self ”

    Today’s Guardian headlines:
    Anand Ramlogan
    Anand, Ramdeen arrested in legal fees kickback probe; Senior official predicts “shock waves in the legal community”

    Today’s Daily Express headlines:
    “Anand’s arrest linked to legal fees”

    These were the headlines in our national press covering the arrest of former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and his good friend Gerald Ramdeem. What is significant about these reportage also was my criticisms of the media in covering crimes in my blog of April 30, 2019 at 9:44 pm.

    In contesting Raffique Shah’s critique of COP Gary Griffith, I made my own observation that our local media reporting lacks
    critical information and there is no research or investigative process done in how they report news. I quote my own observation
    “Crimes like stealing from the public purse, corruption, stealing of public property, bribery, non reporting of taxes, misuse of state funds, extortion, re-direction of state spending, mismanagement of state funds, kick backs and apathy regarding responsible accounting of budgetary appropriations.
    Emphasis on the word ‘crime’ is focussed on the former rather than the latter. This is so because the crimes we are afraid of is mostly committed by the lower class and the ones we pay no attention to is considered white-collar, political or crimes committed by the affluent in our society.”……Kian

    Nowhere in the reporting of this event were we informed of what statute was used to make these arrests. In some of theses cases, they never bothered to inform us first that these arrests took place, then do follow up on comments on the arrests. In the case pot Newsday, they only wanted to tell us what Kamla Persad Bissessar thought about the arrests without giving us a clue as to why they were arrested in the first place. Why is it more important to tell us what Kamla and Faris think before telling us what happened?

    Under what statute were the authority contained that authorized the police to arrest these men? Does the media have this knowledge at all? Who authorized the arrest of these men? There is no doubt that answers to these questions will be more enlightening than to know what Kamla thinks about the arrests.
    It is extremely obvious that she would be perturbed about it, so why make it a point to tell us before anything else? As I noted in my statement about crime, there was not even a single hint that these men may have been accused of committing a crime that ran contrary to a law dealing with kickbacks – WHY?

    If this was a crime covering a little black boy from Laventille we would have been fed more information than we needed to hear, including his lack of education, lack of proper parenting and most definitely how bad his neighborhood is. When are we going to demand a higher standard of reportage in covering local news?
    The journalistic standard of those covering our media is poor save for a few well established journalists. It would appear that the media houses are more interested whetting our mauves langue appetite than providing us with information that gives us a thorough understanding of what they are covering.

  4. Persons afflicted by certain personality disorders do not respond well to criticism and they believe that they are a law unto themselves.
    A certain political party has always tried to exert control of the police service thereby subverting democracy and creating a biased justice system that is selective.
    Trinidad is facing a violent crime epidemic and an increasing homicide rate.The minimal homicide detection and successful prosecution rate is cause for concern.
    If a similar level of alacrity is applied to solving homicides as seen with white collar crime the justice system would be seen as fair and balanced.
    Violent crime and organized crime deserve more attention than white collar crime.
    A team of foreign homicide detectives and FBI agents can be brought in to assist in homicide detection and prosecution but this may not be seen as a priority by the COP.

  5. I think we’re seeing the same thing there in TnT as the so call Journalists throughout the Globe; of course this excludes the Communist countries. No such thing as a free press in those countries that are Mr. Shah’s favorite. We get opinions from the journalists and not real reporting, they copy loads of BS from the Net and feed it to the low information voters.

  6. “Violent crime and organized crime deserve more attention than white collar crime.”…..Cla007

    In some cases using the term ‘organized crime’ to mean separate from ‘white-collar’ crime can be an oxymoron. In many cases those at the head of ‘organized crime’ may very well be also engaged in the ‘white-collar’ criminal activities. The term ‘white collar’ is used mostly to soften the impact of criminal activities that may affect hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting
    tax payers. If that is not criminal then we are fooling ourselves. When twenty nine billion dollars are unaccounted for in the budget, it means that a very few become multimillionaires,
    a great many citizens are deprived of simple services as health care, pensions, roads, water and electricity. So, to simply say that the only crime that matters or even to imply that somehow there should be less emphasis one one or the other is foolish and underestimating the impact of what crime is all about.

  7. Police have confirmed that Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson was charged and faced a Port of Spain magistrate today. It’s all in connection with the arrests of Former Attorney General anand Ramlogan and UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen.

    The TTPS confirms today Nelson was charged with Consipracy to misbehave in public office, consipiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to bribe. Nelson was granted One hundred thousand dollars bail. DPP Roger Gaspard appeared on behalf of the state.

    The wheels of justice seem to be turning finally in T&T, in an assault on all crime. This is a very significant case which will have long term implications .Kick back schemes are prevalent in T&T and have been normalized as a way of life and doing business.Illegality of this type dates back to the days of Francis Prevatt who received major kick backs in the millions from US companies and had to flee to avoid jail.
    Hopefully success in this investigation and relevant charges will change the culture and usher in a new period of honest government.
    Although we might have confidence in an investigation led by foreign bodies, we still have to face the prospect of a local justice system which is often accused of political interference and corruption. We still have to face a tainted CJ, leading a questionable justice department.
    Honesty in government might very well be the major issue in the next election. Cam we trust the UNC?

  8. Awesome, my first response was never expected to be seen by the ones, low infor voters that support you looser so call journalists; my point has been proven again, as above, so below. Social Democrats is the buz word you fakers are peddling. Your opinions is not news, get that through your thick skulls. I’d say process that in your brains, but nothing there…robots!

  9. While we have been attuned to the arrest and charging of the former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen, it is just natural to see this as a political act because this is just the way our political culture has allowed us to view this type of crime. Crime is one thing and politics is another, but our culture and media has trained us to believe that because a politician is charged with a crime then political motives must be the reason behind such an event. Our laws are clear as to what constitutes a crime. Be it white-collar, organized, domestic, financial, property related or just plain criminal in intent CRIME MUST BE CONSIDERED CRIME FIRST AND FOREMOST.

    The fact that the accused used political means to commit the alleged crimes, should make them no less potential criminals than others who run afoul of the law. Many in the population have invested faith and confidence in the political aspirations of these men, so this action by law enforcement should be of concern because of their aspirations to be our leaders. That is the enticement to link politics to crime, but we should be under no illusions that politics provide an incentive and even a lure to such acts of criminal behavior.

    From here on we should concentrate on the crime and not the politics of stealing from the treasury.

  10. A certain political party with dictatorial tendencies has always tried to manipulate and control the police service making the TTPS an arm of this political party.
    If ministers of this political party are engaged in white collar crime they would never be prosecuted because of alleged strong ties with and political infiltration of the police service.
    Who controls and manipulates the TTPS?
    What method is used to control and manipulate the TTPS?
    These are pertinent questions to be asked in a country where democracy is being eroded.
    The Americans are looking on.

  11. The police has become the tool of the political directorate. One must note that the PNM is in the habit of locking up prominent UNC leaders and parading them around election time. They did a job on Panday parading him for all to see. Nothing came out of the case.

    What is sad is yesterday several homes of prominent citizens were broken into without search warrant, so traumatized were citizens that an elderly lady fell ill. The bandits aka police came to Gulf view hoping to find property, drugs or something to arrest people like Moonilal or prominent Indian business men. They walked away empty handed.

    One would expect the CoP or police PR to come and explain to the nation the reason for those searches, where citizens were debarred from looking into their own homes to see what the officers were doing. With Buju the CoP apologised a few times but with these citizens no apology forthcoming.

    One can only suspect that these officers were sent there to plant bugs in these homes and to monitor conversations. Al Rawi tried to bug Ramdeen office, the person he tried to hire mysteriously died of poisoning.

    Good citizens must not remain quiet on these issues! The Minister of Everything regular hold press conferences blaming social media. Is he planning to shut down that medium of communication before elections? We must speak out. Lest we forget. First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

    Because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

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