By Raffique Shah
August 27, 2011
“GUILTY as charged, sah!” I declare before the court of public opinion. I hasten to add, as most felons do, “But I need to explain, boss.” Yes, I was foremost among persons who felt that serious crimes had long passed the point of tolerance, that law-abiding citizens were living in a state of siege, and if a state of emergency was required to restore some semblance of order in the society, then bring it on.
But in so doing, I all but mapped out a strategy for the imposition of draconian measures. I wrote from as far back as 2003 that law enforcement agencies first needed to have proper intelligence reports on the highest-level criminals who have reduced this country to the sorry state it had reached. Sure, they must necessarily target the young gunmen who, armed with what the police often describe as “high powered guns” (ordinary pistols, rifles and sub-machine guns), commit the most heinous robberies, murders and gangland executions.
These two-by-two louts, however, do not import such weapons. One does not take a pirogue to Colombia, seek out Pablo, thrust some “blue notes” into his hands, and say, “Chief, ah want two kilos of pure-white and ah dozen Glocks!” You’d be dead before you get close to Pablo, Juan or whoever runs a cartel in cocaine-country.
Given that an estimated 300 tonnes of cocaine is “traded” every year, any offer to buy less than, say, 100 kilos, would be deemed an insult. And the guns that invariably accompany cocaine trafficking come in large numbers; not a Glock or S&W here, an HK MP5 there. Bulk-buying is the name of that game. Only people who have millions of US dollars are capable of tapping into such sources.
So that while picking up Atibo and Carter from Nelson Street, and Khalid and Dominic from Bagatelle, might mean four cold-blooded killers off the streets, “Messrs Big” remain at large to find other jackasses to continue the lucrative trade in guns and drugs. From what I have seen thus far (I’m writing this on Friday morning), the prison-pirogue is filled with “fry-dries”; a handful of weapons has been seized (including a “pookney” whose owner must be ashamed to claim it!), and these are of little comfort to citizens who want law and order restored.
Most of all, there is a state of confusion that manifests itself daily during the State of Emergency. When the Prime Minister first alerted the nation to this drastic measure, she deemed it “limited”. We have since clarified that: the Emergency is national in scope. The curfew is what is limited to certain districts.
I would have expected, when the PM addressed the nation, she might have said: “…As I speak to you, 46 gang leaders (she turns to Minister Sandy, whispers, then returns to the mike)…make that 55, have been picked up by the police and are currently detained in prison.”
You do not say the Emergency would become effective in 12 or 24 hours! Keith Rowley had it right when he said Government had lost the element of surprise—surprisingly so, since she has so many military advisers around her.
The confusion had only begun. What prompted the timing of the declaration remains a mystery. AG Ramlogan and Minister John Sandy hinted that some kind of mayhem and mass murders were about to happen, hence the pre-emptive strike. The population does not need details. Surely, though, we expect to learn that the perpetrators of such intended action are under arrest and are charged with serious offences.
Then there was the saga of the missing Commissioner of Police, Dwayne Gibbs. Initially, nobody seemed to know where he was (one minister said Canada). The PSC threatened serious disciplinary action against him, and the AG said he would leave that issue for the PSC to deal with. Me? I thought if Gibbs left the country without informing the authorities, then he must be a mad man. He certainly does not look like a St Ann’s outpatient.
Turned out that Cabinet, no less, had approved Gibbs’ attendance at a conference in Brazil. Was that a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing? But worse was in the pipeline. AG Ramlogan comes across as someone who always wanted to act out his Western fantasies, John Wayne- style, riding a horse or whatever, and spouting “gun talk”.
After the ministerial team announced postponement of the Independence fireworks, he chirped: “The only fireworks we want to see and hear must be between the army, the police and the bandits!”
With the State of Emergency in effect, Ramlogan is in his element. Every day he gets a chance to brandish his mouth, issuing a threat here, a warning there…until Dominic Kallipersad reduced him to television fodder.
If the AG is guilty of “playing himself” during the Emergency, what can I say about Minister Herbert Volney? Now, here’s a real-life St Ann’s in-patient who has escaped the walls of the mad house. “Anyone caught breaking the curfew will be shot on sight!” the madman bawled, as he “lahay” on a wall. People who did not know better started peeing their pants. Others laughed ’til they peed.
Seriously, I have no problem with the government’s declaration of an emergency if, at the end of the week or month or even six months, so many real criminals are stashed away in prison, law-abiding citizens feel a sense of relief.
But with so much confusion surrounding its declaration and implementation, I have my doubts.