A Quest for Truth

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 20, 2024

“A Quest for Truth” was delivered on Monday Night February 19, 2024, at the UNC’s forum on crime.

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, leader of the UNC, other members of the panel, distinguished members of the UNC, ladies and gentlemen and those who are present at the Chaguanas Borough Council and those who are following on radio or television.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target that no one else can see.”

—Arthur Schopenhauer

I am honored to share my views on the state of crime in our country at this forum for the simple reason that if the intensity of criminal activity continues-both at the hands of bandits with guns or social bandits with pens or computers-at the rate things are going, it will reduce our civilization to a level of barbarity in the next ten years. Such a situation will make our society unlivable for both the bandit, the white-collar criminal, and the ordinary man and woman. As a citizen of this great country, I felt it imperative to add my two cents to this grave existential threat.

Also, I wish to thank the Leader of the Opposition for starting these important conversations. It is something the nation must engage in at this time in our history. As I indicated recently, a national discussion on crime is more relevant to our society’s future than one on constitutional reform as proposed by our prime minister. To the degree that there should be a committee on constitutional reform, it should be chaired by a constitutional expert such a Douglas Mendes, Hosein Fyard, or John Jeremie rather than a conveyancer, that is, an attorney who specializes in real estate. It is this thoughtless vy-kee-vy (or vay-ki-vay) approach to national affairs that has placed us in the dangerous position in which we find ourselves vis-à-vis our crime problem.

My hope and expectation is that eventually a UNC-generated document on these discussions can be shared with every member of the community in the near future. In this way, it will help us understand where we are, how we got here, and the way forward.

As anyone can tell, I am the great-grandson of a slave, Jonathan Cudjoe, who was born in Tacarigua in 1833. On Thursday, December 7, 1899, Cyrus Prudhomme David, the grandson of another slave, lectured on the topic “State Aid to Agriculture” at the Victoria Institute, in Port of Spain. He said: “Security of person and property being the first condition of social progress, the principal functions of every civilized government are to protect the commonwealth against external aggression and to secure to every individual the fruits of his industry. But as civilization advances and the power of government is felt more and more to be resting upon the consent of the governed, the tendency grows to invest the State with numerous other functions calculated to promote the general welfare. At the present time the legislation of all self-governed communities indicates that the principle of laissez faire-which indeed was never of much validity except amongst English-speaking nations-is being universally discarded in favor of the more vigorous principles of State socialism.”

Prudhomme David made this statement in 1899, almost one hundred and twenty-five years ago.

This question of protecting the well-being of every citizen was taken up again by Dr. Eric Williams, the Father of our Nation, on November 27-28, 1970, in the “The Chaguaramas Declaration: Perspective for a New Society,” which he delivered shortly after the Black Power Revolts, at the Special Convention of the PNM. After dismissing the adoption of “laissez-faire capitalism” or what he called “liberal Capitalism” and “the ideal of Marxism” as guides to our social development, he asserted: “We must devise a system which gives a central place to the idea of the sovereignty of the people. The people must participate actively in decision-making in political and economic matters; they must shape their own culture, wielding all the separate strands that have been imported into our society into one composite national culture. In other words, they must, after more than four hundred years of being acted upon, act for themselves. From being the passive objects of history, they must become the active agents. They must shape their own future and their own destiny.”

In 2010, after the UNC ascended to government, I put out a short booklet, Indian Time Ah Come in Trinidad and Tobago, that I launched with the late Sat Maharaj and which I dedicated to “Kamla and Sat and the East Indian Struggle.” It included Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s “Swearing-in Speech,” and “Indian Arrival Day Speech,” Keith Rowley’s “Reflection and Resurgence,” and Eric Williams’s “The Last Lap.”

On August 4, 2010, in my “Emancipation Lecture” at the Center of Excellence, I said: “After completing the first draft of this book [Indian Time Ah Come], I sent a copy of it to Professor Arnold Rampersad of Stanford University for his comments….After reading the book, Professor Rampersad said: ‘We must all wish Kamla well and expect her to do the best for all of us in the nation. Whether we are PNM, COP or PP, we should not want her to fail because if she fails, it means all of us fail.'” In this Anti-Crime Conversation, we should all wish Kamla and the UNC well.

About two weeks ago, Sugar Aloes, one of our most gifted calypsonians, uttered his concern about the prevalence of crime in the island. He said, “People no longer have value for life and ‘respect for each other and their belongings’ as he felt the wrath of criminals after being robbed.” The reporter noted: “His trademark gold chains were snatched from his neck by bandits in the heart of Port of Spain.” He concluded, “The calypsonian no longer wears flashy jewelry in public or at home.

This is why I am here this evening to speak about this troubling challenge to our nation and what I call, “A Quest for Truth.” Whether one is PNM, UNC, or Hopeless (sorry I meant Hope), it is our national duty to share our views on this important issue, keeping in mind as Prudhomme David insisted that the prime function of any nation is to keep its people safe and, as Williams asserted “people must participate actively in decision-making in political and economic matters.” In other words, all of us must become active agents in the change that we wish to see.

Today we are faced with a crime situation that has gotten out of control-murders, home invasions, robberies, and rapes. It is only our people, acting collectively, without thinking about our race or class, color or social rank, but acting as sovereign beings, who can solve this problem. As we do so, we must keep in mind that it is people, not machines, or guns, or elegant swagger that must be central to solving crime in the island.

People are neither “cockroaches” nor “miscreants” as others have described them but our brothers and sisters who may have gone wrong not only because of their own fault but because those of us who claim to possess superior wisdom have failed them. We must try to understand that within that “bad brand of brigands” to which they have attached themselves they find love and a sense of belonging with others who care for them.

Fighting crimes and criminals is a national challenge to which all of us must be committed and in which we must all be involved. Each and every citizen, from the youngest to the oldest, must know his or her role in this important endeavor. Under that rubric, I make some suggestions:

First. We should declare 2024 “The Year of Crime” in which we direct all of our energies, resources, and insights to end this crime wave. In this way, we signal to the population that making the country safe is the primary business of the nation. It is not the exclusive concern of the government, the police, the army, or the magistrates. It concerns all of us.

Second. National Statement on Crime. We must be of one accord on how we approach the question of crime. Jamaica, for example, has declared a “National Consensus on Crime” in which every segment of the community is involved. Its National Consensus on Crime states: “In October 2019, the Government, Opposition, Civil Society, and the Private Sector Industry Associations agreed to support a process of developing a National Consensus on Crime to transform Jamaica into a safe, secure, and investment-friendly society.”

The summit concluded with an understanding that successful transformation would require agreement on specific priorities and actions, wide-spread buy-in with regard to the way forward, and a bipartisan commitment to implementation.

This statement was signed by the prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Jamaica Council of Churches, and many other organizations. Even Trevor Monroe, the once-exalted Marxist scholar, joined his fellow Jamaicans to offer a common front on crime. Whether this approach has been successful or not, it demonstrates that the first way forward to solve the crime problem is to have a COMMON PURPOSE and a COMMON GOAL. In this way, each citizen will know what we aspire to, hoping that together we can achieve our goal.

Such solidarity does not guarantee that crime would be abated. In fact, a week ago, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory to its citizens against traveling to Jamaica because of its “crime and medical services.” The State Department claimed that Jamaican local authorities did a poor job “of responding to serious crimes, assaults, and more.” It claimed that “sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.” Jamaica, it said, “has one of the highest homicide rates in the Western hemisphere.” We are not far behind.

This means that we in Trinidad and Tobago have a lot of work to do. We must air our dirty linen in public so that we can come together in common accord. Our goals must be summarized in a few pages or a small booklet.

Third. Involvement of the Entire Community. We must involve each and every one in its solution which is why this undertaking by the UNC is so important. It involves people in finding the solutions to their own problems. Each citizen, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, should know what his or her role is in the solution of the crime problem.

Fourth. Community Involvement. To investigate the crime problem we must go to the communities where the people live, where they can offer their ideas freely in their own setting, speaking with one another as family.

This is why Eric Williams launched his “Meet-the-People Tour” in 1963. On July 15, 1969, Frank Mc Donald, wrote the following letter to Richard Nolte, Executive Director of the Institute of Current World Affairs: “Williams himself has visited every secondary school in the country and most of the hundreds of villages in what he describes as ‘Meet the People Tours.’ Right now, he has embarked on a ‘Meet the Farmers Tour’ since agriculture has become this year’s development theme.”

You cannot know your people or speak to their needs if you do not sit down and converse with them in their communities about their hopes, their dreams, and their aspirations. Coming to think about it, I am not too sure if Eric Williams or Patrick Manning for that matter ever took a holiday.

Fifth. Strengthening the Judicial Branch of Government. We cannot solve the crime problem if the judiciary does not function efficiently at an optimal level. No case, no matter how difficult or sophisticated, should take years to be disposed of. The courts, the prosecutor’s office, and the judiciary must identify all the factors that affect the slow and inefficient ways in which the justice system now operates and do something about it. In a recent letter to the editor of the Express, John Thompson wrote: “The analysis done by the Judiciary just goes to show that the only real issue is a lack of skill development and knowledge. This points to a breakdown in the skills, standards and knowledge transfer in the overall legal administration and practice environment.”

Part of the problem lies in the fact that after sixty two years of independence the judiciary must rely completely on the state and the Ministry of Finance in order to perform its most mundane tasks associated with the delivery of its core mission-the administration of justice. The time is ripe for to hold the judiciary to account in the administration of justice. To do so we must allow them unfettered access to financial resources and the consolidated fund.

There must be more diversification in the administration of justice. Everything cannot be centralized in the Chief Justice’s office in Port of Spain and San Fernando. We may have to opt for a parish system that is similar to Jamaica where judicial offices in other parts of the country can make their own decisions in matters that concern their region. More importantly, the justice system must become more technologically savvy. Thompson notes: “Digitization and digital transformation tools can play a key role in pushing the thrust ahead.”

The same can be said about the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). It has not kept up with new technologies in the field. The inability to implement new technologies has led to the greater inefficiency of its personnel. Imagine a DPP office saying that it could not file as many indictments as it liked because it was trying to save paper. The DPP must upgrade its technology if we are to wage a more effective war against crime. The DPP deals with criminal matters exclusively. During the Covid period (2019-22) the office dealt with five indictments a month. Prior to, it dealt with approximately 30 indictments a month. One cannot solve crimes that are taking place in 2024 using 1994 technologies.

Sixth. Stronger Enforcement Mechanism. If we accept the position that criminal activity in our society has increased, particularly among our youths, then we must be prepared to take more radical and decisive action to solve the problem. Although I do not subscribe to the militarization of any society, sometimes we have to give serious thought to unthinkable things.

On February 7, 2023, the New York Times ran an interesting story, “Terror by Gangs, Ecuador Embraces the Hard-line ‘Noboa Way.'” Daniel Noboa is the president of Ecuador. The story begins: “Since Ecuador’s president declared war on gangs last month, soldiers with assault rifles have flooded the streets of Guayaquil, a sprawling Pacific Coast city that has been an epicenter of the nation’s years long descent into violence…

“The city is on edge, its men and teenage boys potential targets for troops and police officers who have been ordered to take down powerful gangs that have joined forces with international cartels to make Ecuador a hub of the global drug trade.
“Yet when people see soldiers pass, many clap or give them thumbs-up. ”We applaud the iron fist, we celebrate it,’ said Guayaquil’s mayor, Aquiles Alvarez. “It has helped bring peace.”

These stringent measures are not in tandem with our way of doing things in Trinidad and Tobago. However, if we wish to break the hold the gangs and criminals have upon our society we must use an iron fist to take them down. We know that the mayhem is caused by no more than two or three hundred people. The police authorities say they know who these criminals are so we can be surgical in our approach in fighting them. They are not afraid of the police authorities, so we, in turn, must not be afraid of them. When I was growing up, some of my bad-john friends would say, “If yo’ ain’t afraid to dead’ I ain’t afraid to kill you.” It’s called the principle of street justice.

Such an approach to the problem will result in the violation of certain human civil rights of our people, but that’s the price we must be willing to pay if we wish to regain our society. We must have the courage to act boldly now. As my mother used to say, “Don’t take a flambeau to look for something at night which you can see during the day.”

Seventh. Parents’ Responsibility. We must hold parents responsible for the crimes their juvenile children commit. In a recent decision in the Oakland County Circuit Court in Michigan, U.S.A, Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty of involuntary murder for the “gun rampage of her teenage son [Ethan Crumbley], who carried out the state’s deadliest school shooting more than two years ago.” Her son was sentenced to life in prison for killing four students last year. The gun he used to commit these murders was a gift from his parents. She may be sentenced to as many as fifteen years in jail for her negligence. Her husband will be tried in March on a similar charge.

While I disagree with much the prime minister has said about the crime issue, there’s one point on which we agree: We cannot evade the question of self-responsibility in these matters. Parents, especially absent fathers, must be held responsible for the violent crimes their children commit. They must be made to pay for neglecting their parental duties.

I am thankful to Egan Bazzey, the secretary of the Ulric “Buggy” Haynes Coaching School, who chastised me for not speaking about the responsibility of parents in the escalating crime scene when I penned “Rowley Cannot Solve Our Crime Problem.”

Eighth. Cleaning Up the Police Force. On November 17, 2016, Acting Police Commissioner -Stephen Williams told us that the reputation of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has been tarnished by rogue elements within its ranks. He reminded us: “The public is vesting trust in the TTPS and we must do nothing to undermine this. Clear decisive and timely action will be taken in every case to remove what we can describe as the rogue element from the Police Service.” None of us knows what has happened to this endeavor.

Public trust in the TTPS is low. The general public is afraid to provide the police information about crimes that take place in their communities and the criminals who commit them. That tells us a lot about the distrust they have for the TTPS. They do not feel safe in taking complaints to the police out of fear that the confidential information they give to them is likely to get back to the person about whom they complain or is likely to testify against. It is well known that the hands of the criminal reach out from behind prison bars to revenge those outside the prison bars to deter cooperation with the police and to exact revenge on those who “snitch on them.”

We are not likely to curb the rising crime rate unless the public has greater trust in the Police Service. A lot of work must be done to reestablish public trust in the TTPS.
Ninth. Attending to the Economic Needs of Black Youths. The majority of the Trinidadians dying from violent crimes are Black youths. Last Sunday the Trinidad Guardian reported: “More young Afro-Trinidadians are dying compared to males in any other age group or ethnicity. In 2023, 136 Afro-Trinidadians (30 years and under) were murdered, while 23 Indo-Trinidadians of the same age bracket were killed….This means that 491 percent more Afro-Trinidadian males (30 years old and under) are murdered than Indo-Trinidadian males of the same age.”

A week ago, someone sent me a video of several black youths celebrating at a funeral of a prominent Black gang member. She wrote: “There is a type of joy and celebration in his young death. It is like a death cult. It is a very deep and serious problem. Every day, it gets worse.”

This was not entirely unexpected. On Emancipation Day 2008, His Excellency John Kufor, president of the Republic of Ghana, shared his evening with the members of the National Association for the Empowerment of African People. I made the following observations on that occasion: “Even as I speak our liberation is not complete. Young men in our inner cities or the ghetto as they like to call their place of residence are choosing their coffins as one of our young calypsonians, Mamimus Dan, reminded us. Few of them expect to live beyond thirty years of age. In our ghettos, death stalks our children and young people with a vengeance….During slavery, few Africans lived beyond the age of thirty.”
I wonder if we are going back to the conditions of slavery.

Tenth: The Dignity of Work. Dr. Williams addressed the nation shortly after the Black Power revolts in Trinidad in 1970. He titled his address “Revolution and Dignity.” He ended with the following words:

“The rights of humanity must commence with special assistance to the Black man, to make up for historical injustice and the time lost through his exclusion from the economic and social, and even political, progress of the nineteenth century….

“Let us then, fellow citizens, now dedicate ourselves to this question of human dignity, beginning necessarily with black dignity, and to the establishment of economic power without which there cannot be that dignity, confident of the fact that we would thereby not only create a new and better Trinidad and Tobago, but also make a positive and powerful contribution to the solution of the problems that face our tortured humanity.”
Today, Black people still find themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder. They keep sinking deeper into the quagmire of poverty. Although there is not one major industry in Morvant or Laventille, yet we believe that we can speak to Black dignity and Black pride in the absence of productive and meaningful work among these young men and women.
In this context, it is important to draw your attention to a letter that Frederick Engels wrote to Joseph Bloch on September 21, 1890. He noted: “According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life.”

Bob Marley, our own revolutionary poet put it this way:

Them belly full, but we’re hungry
A hungry mob is a angry mob
A rain a-fall but the dirt, it tough
A yet I yoke, but the yield no nuff.

In other words, one cannot be charitable, morally responsible, or law abiding, if one does not have the necessary means to keep body and soul together.

Both the UNC and the PNM have failed us in this regard. Unless we put our youths to work where they live, until they understand the dignity that work gives to a person, an inordinate amount of crimes will always be committed in those areas. However, as we are finding out, such violent behavior is not confined to those areas. It has taken over the whole of the nation. It is not a Black problem but a national problem. As we enter the elections in 2025, each party should be required to present a plan that speaks to the employment of Black youths. It is that urgent.

Eleventh. A National Cultural Policy. In order to realize our humanity, we must develop a national cultural policy that speaks to the needs and aspirations of our people, particularly the younger members of our community. In a booklet I prepared for this occasion, “Perspectives and Crime and Society in Trinidad and Tobago,” I reprinted a lecture that I gave in 1983 in which I emphasized the need for a cultural policy for our nation. I wrote:

“The absence of any well-defined and articulated political ideology in Trinidad and Tobago makes it very difficult to determine its cultural policy and how we are supposed to achieve these objectives.

“For purposes of this discussion I will define cultural policy as an expression of the systematic concern of the State for the organization of the national cultural life of our people. Moreover, I will define the national cultural life of our people as it is expressed in our traditions, the moral and ethical concerns, its psychological attitudes, and the level of its intellectual development.

“It follows necessarily that in order for there to be any systematic policy or national cultural life there ought to be national goals by which and through which these cultural expressions are framed.”

I am pleased therefore to highlight an observation that Martin Daly made in his Sunday column two weeks ago when he emphasized the social bonding that takes place around the steel band and the need for a national cultural policy. He wrote:

“The Panorama bond is strong, enduring and intergenerational. When will some sensible cultural policy emerge in order to seize this unique opportunity to further peace in our communities?… It cannot be over-emphasized how many youngsters are playing or following pan. These are precious human resources, which have not yet been misled. This energy can be captured within the expanded panyard model for which I have been a constant advocate.”
The National Carnival Commission (NCC) that was formed in 1991 to make carnival “a viable national, cultural and commercial enterprise, to provide the necessary managerial and organizational infrastructure for the efficient and effective presentation and marketing of the cultural products of Carnival; and to establish arrangements for ongoing research, etc.” Since its formation it has submitted eight audited financial reports. This is a wholescale scandal on steroids. A 2021 report by Auditor General Lorelly Pujadas noted that the NCC could not provide a fixed leger for “property, plants and equipment, which was supposedly valued at $3,328,805…for the year 2008.” Even for the years 1998 to 2003, 2008, and 2009, “the NCC still failed to have proper documentation of the monies it collected and spent.”

Last year the NCC was allocated $147 million dollars. Even if we assume that the NCC was allocated $100 million dollars each year for the past 32 years it has been in existence, it means that NCC has been allocated $32 million over the period which amounts to $3.2 billion dollars. What do they have to show for that period and that amount of money? Wouldn’t it be better if we devised a national cultural policy that uses that money in a more organized and responsible, intentional manner?

My call 30 years ago for a national cultural policy is still relevant today.
Twelfth. UNC’s Unique Contribution to Our Public Discourse. At his press conference on February 5, 2004, the prime minister characterized these hearings as “a pappy show.” In his imperial manner he proclaimed: “You think I have time to pappyshow myself around the country with the Opposition Leader. I mean, I have no problem if the opposition leader wants to meet with me but this is just pappyshow going on here.”

And herein lies the linguistic contortions (or even intellectual dishonesty) of the prime minister’s approach to this important problem and his lack of respect for civic engagement. Solving our crime problem should never be reduced to a discussion between the prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition. This issue concerns the well-being of a severely traumatized people that needs to be nursed back to health as quickly as possible.
This Anti-Crime Conversation should never be characterized as a pappyshow. It is a public performance, taking place in a public arena where citizens are encouraged to make their contributions in an open and transparent manner.

Thirteen. The Need for Public Education. We should do everything in our power to raise the educational and cultural levels of our society through an increase in public education at all levels of the society. Silence not only breeds contempt, it obfuscates the unexpressed feelings of people and robs us from receiving the wisdom of all our citizens. Even the mute must be encouraged to express their feelings. The discussion of crime and crime prevention must start from kindergarten.

Fourteenth. Civil Discourse and Respectful Listening. When I attended St. Mary’s Anglican School in Tacarigua, my school teacher, Walter St. Clair Clarke, to whom I dedicated my first book, Resistance and Caribbean Literature, filled the classroom walls with proverbs and other meaningful verses that were meant to inspire his students. One Arabian proverb remained with me: “Four things come not back-the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.”

We cannot get very far if we don’t respect what others say. While the members of both parties have been guilty of “throwing words” at one another, such thoughtless obscenities cannot lead to a fruitful and positive resolution of the matter.

I am reminded of the contribution Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister of National Security, made at the government’s crime symposium that took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in April last year. He said: “Among these beautiful photos [of the people at the symposium] though, are a few, featuring the sour, big-time loser; the evil woman from Siparia; the ‘filthy’ rich one from Oropouche; rum-soaked lout, Miss de Mark and skinned head upstart, were all there-Tese these discourteous lost-souls, remained seated while the entire gathering stood to congratulate Dr. Rowley.”

Question: Is this any way to speak about your colleagues, especially someone who has taken an oath to protect all of our citizens? Is it possible to speak disrespectfully and disparagingly of one’s colleagues and then ask them in good faith to break bread with you?
Words can be potent daggers to the heart. Once you have uttered them, you cannot take them back. Sometimes they reveal more about the person who throws them than the person to whom they are thrown. There can be no serious discussion if we are not careful about how we throw our words around. Maintaining respectful relationships demands a sensitive and sensible consideration of other people.

Fifteenth. Truth Is God. Many of us see these hearings as a way to get the TRUTH of the crime problem into the open because dialogue (in the Socratic sense) is one of the better ways to arrive at its reality. This is why I support and embrace what the UNC is trying to do in this regard.

However, there is a deeper philosophical reason why this Anti-Crime Conversation represents one of UNC’s finest moments and why it constitutes a unique contribution to the nation. For the past sixty-nine years the PNM has ended its meetings with the rallying cry, “Great is the PNM and it will prevail.” Many people who utter this phrase do not know that Dr. Williams took it from the Latin aphorism, “Magna est veritas et pravaler,” which, in its original form, means “Great is the TRUTH and it will prevail.” In other words, Dr. Williams substituted the word PNM in place of the word TRUTH and this is what undergirds the statement: “Great is the PNM and it will prevail.” In doing so, Dr. Williams drew from a Western tradition of thought that informed his understanding of the world.

Sometimes we forget that the Eastern world also made its contribution to democracy and intellectual thought. The great Mahatma Gandhi possessed another conception of the TRUTH. In his writings he said that “TRUTH IS GOD AND GOD IS TRUTH.” In fact, the word satya [pronounced sa-ti-ya] is derived from the Sanskrit “sat” which means Truth. J. M. Mehta said, “Gandhi Ji believed that truth is the first thing to be sought for and beauty and goodness will then be added unto you.” In fact, the subtitle of his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, expressed his conviction that life is an eternal quest for truth and perfection.

This is why this Anti-Crime Conversation is so important. It relies on another way of seeing the world and another avenue of arriving at the TRUTH-that is, from the philosophical thrust of the sacred language of Indic philosophy, which we must embrace if we are to become one people. This is why UNC should end every session of this Anti-Crime Conversation with the cry, “Great is the TRUTH and it shall prevail.” Such a declaration will convey to Trinbagonians that this Anti-Crime Conversation is concerned with seeking the TRUTH, bringing together people of all persuasions to solve a common problem, as it seeks to perfect our society. In the end, this is what democracy is all about.

Sixteenth. Transparency. In seeking to discover the truth about the escalation of crime, we should ask all our office holders, particularly the prime minister and members of his Cabinet, to declare what was their wealth and that of their immediate family in 2015 and what it is now. In that way we can see if crime is paying for them or not; that is, whether their increased wealth resulted from the escalation of crime (causal) or whether their increased wealth, if there was any, just happened at the same rate at which crime increased (correlational.)

And so, I end as I began, pleading for the principle that animated this Anti-Crime Conversation and going back to my ancestors to understand if my people are destined to return to a condition we thought we had overcome when the British ended slavery (or were forced to end slavery) to later the iniquitous conditions of indentureship. As my friend, Margaret Burnham, stated in her book, By Hands Now Known, “Slavery was so inimical to to natural law that it could only be sustained except by positive law.”

Frederick Douglass, one of the most illustrious African American scholars and freedom fighters, died on February 20, 1895, that is, one hundred and twenty-eight years ago. He dedicated his life to improving the conditions of oppressed people as he fought against racism and bigotry. In his fight for equality, he once said: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” In this particular instance and on this particular occasion, I stand with the UNC because I believe that it is doing the right and noble thing.

Moreover, I stand in solidarity with the UNC not because I love my party or my political leader less, but because I love my country more and feel compelled to speak out against the brutal slayings of so many young Black men every day and the unease that so many citizens feel about what is taking place in our society. We, the members of the general public, must intervene to stop this carnage. We can start the process if we dialogue with one another in peace and sincerity in spite of the spilled blood and mayhem we see every day.

I pray that all the divine powers give us the insight to discern the right, the courage to discover the truth, and conviction to say, “I am my brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”
Perhaps, like Gandhi, we should say: “Great is the Truth and it will prevail.”
February 19, 2024

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