Murder, Mayhem… SWEET, SWEET, T&T, WHAT HAS BECOME OF YOU?

102

By VASANT BHARATH

Only in Trinidad and To­bago could an election campaign have taken place without discussion of the most important national issue.

The just-concluded battle for Local Government supremacy lacked any debate or analysis of crime, which is, by far, the most critical matter affecting our be­sieged nation.
There was hogwash about co­coyea brooms, irrelevant talk about Cambridge Analytica, unsustainable promises of one economic gift or another and a vacuous pledge to create another municipality.
In the meantime, nationals were being killed in a hospital ward, in a moored boat, in their homes, along the streets, in their family gardens – and more.
Without hyperbole, it is fair to state that T&T has descended into one of the bloodiest non-war countries and is a large and law­less killing field.
For only the third time in the country’s entire history, the an­nual homicide rate is likely to top 500, making the land, per capita, one of the most dangerous places on earth.
Yet, flag-waving political fanat­ics, the media, independent insti­tutions and analysts, the clergy and other stakeholders did not bring the ruling regime to account on the murder mayhem.
While it is acknowledged that the election was one of local gov­ernment representation, it is also correct that community matters almost never feature on campaign platforms.
In addition, everyone concedes that the poll was a dress rehearsal for the upcoming General Elec­tion and that the two major par­ties were displaying their wares to the country.

Stuart Young and crime were absent from the campaign trail

Monday’s election offered in­sights into the public’s view of the stewardship of Keith Row­ley’s PNM and Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s capacity to unseat the government and return to national office.
It is a crying shame that neither the crime epidemic nor its Line Minister Stuart Young featured on the campaign trail.
With its track record of perfor­mance, it is not surprising that the PNM ducked the issue during the campaign and chose that period to introduce parliamentary amend­ments to the Bail Bill.
With respect to the anti-bail leg­islation, Rowley clearly wanted to paint Persad-Bissessar as uncar­ing about the fight against crime in the Opposition’s bold refusal to support the amendments.
The government partly suc­ceeded and had a bonus in Persad-Bissessar’s absence from Par­liament, which the government painted as a sign that she is not in­terested in the anti-crime crusade.

A glut of laws has made no impact in the anti-crime war

The Opposition’s submissions during the debate were devoid of the character and depth expected in such a grave and urgent issue.
There is no gainsaying that the parliamentary Opposition lacks the aptitude and passion in effec­tively agitating on important na­tional concerns.
The unconvincing Opposition response gave the government a virtual free pass and was also a huge let-down to those who are banking on efficient alternative leadership.
The Opposition did not chal­lenge the fact that a glut of laws has made no impact in the anti-crime war.
In fact, the violent spree is surging in spite of legislation to strengthen the police, to haul in gangsters, to deny bail, to speed up the delivery of justice, to per­mit easier access to properties, to inquire into private affairs.
Passage of new laws and updat­ing of existing ones are obviously not the cure-all to the bloodletting.
As has always been the case, there is a need for competent and focused political leadership and a holistic approach comprised of unrelenting crime-fighters, use of intelligence and surveillance and a speedier justice system.
Prime Minister Rowley’s de­tachment from the scourge is clearly meant to ascribe total re­sponsibility to the Police Com­missioner, who, in the person of Gary Griffith, has a loud bark even if his bite is not as vicious.
The reference point with respect to leadership came from Basdeo Panday, who, for a period, append­ed the Ministry of National Secu­rity to his prime ministerial port­folio, telling the country that he would directly manage the crisis.
Statistics prove that, of recent national leaders, Panday had the best success.
He squared off against the el­ephant in the room and fared rea­sonably well.
No other Prime Minister has had the courage to assume the Se­curity portfolio.

T&T is collapsing into a dystopian land

The current administration has sacked a deadbeat National Se­curity Minister and replaced him with a blusterer whose priority is scoring political points instead of keeping the nation safe.
He is served by junior ministers; whose functions and accomplish­ments are a closely-guarded secret.
In all of this, Rowley indulges in smokes and mirrors and his well-worn political showboating.
In opposition, he scolded the administration’s inability to tame crime, but in government, he is dodgy and creative in proffering excuses to an overwhelmed coun­try.
Still, the Opposition did not confront the government on the hustings, thus permitting the rul­ing regime to continue to portray itself as continuously providing measures to the police service.
The painful truth is that the Rowley administration has long played all its hands on the crime plague and is currently running on empty, while the opposition has emerged as indifferent and sterile.
That reality provides no com­fort to a country in which anyone could become the next homicide victim, with that crime earning a nominal mention in the media and remaining unsolved by the police.
The only remaining arsenal Trinidad and Tobago have in the struggle against crime is united and concerted citizen dissent and demonstration.
The failure of our leaders leaves the assignment on the shoulders of beleaguered and as­sailed nationals, who must speak with one voice and demand re­sults from those at the helm and others vying to run the country.
There is ample current evi­dence of societies rising up against incompetent, ineffec­tive and oppressive regimes, demanding the implementation of progressive policies and pro­grammes. There would never be a more essential and serious cam­paign than that of preserving life and limb.
The ever-worsening bane of violence and the barrenness on both sides of the political divide must be the ultimate wake up call for citizens to affirm their deter­mination to take back their land from criminals and useless lead­ership.
Failure to do so could soon see Trinidad and Tobago collapsing into a dystopian land, a graphic and bloody example of a murder­ous modern-day failed state.