By VASANT BHARATH
The incompetent Rowley Government is emerging more and more as a headless chicken in everything it does with respect to crime.
With several anti-crime plans covered in dust, the ruling regime last week convened yet another “national discussion” on the critical issue.
Not surprisingly, National Security Minister Stuart Young came up empty-handed at the end of the wasted day-long exercise and engaged in another characteristic round of promises.
Then, the Joint Select Committee on National Security was convened to score political points and not to earnestly seek a bipartisan solution to this modern-day plague.
A few days earlier, Speaker of the House of Representatives Bridgid Annisette-George turned down a plea from the Opposition for a debate on the crime issue as a definite and urgent matter of public importance.
Annisette-George’s rejection of the request took place at the first working session of the Parliament following the almost $500 million expenditure of taxpayers’ funds to refurbish the Red House.
Ironically, the Speaker’s rebuff closely followed the anguished comments of President Paula Mae Weekes at the gala Red House re-opening function.
President Weekes said: “While Parliament and other leaders are dabbling in semantics about whether we are in a failed State or in a crime crisis, our citizens are being murdered at an alarming rate…”
Since the declaration by the Head of State, there have been even more ghastly homicides, including a horrible murder-suicide domestic crime.
The current murder rate is even higher than at the comparative period last year.
Note that last year’s aggregate was the second most terrible in Trinidad and Tobago’s entire history.
Violence is worsening at several schools
Violence is also worsening at several schools across the country (see Page 24 of this issue of Sunshine Today), including at Diego Martin North Secondary School, in the electoral constituency of Prime Minister Rowley.
At the Diego Martin school, violent students turned their ugly rage on a teachers’ vehicle.
There are crimes at several other schools, to the point where teachers and law-abiding students are extremely afraid to attend classes.
The authorities had previously removed security measures at schools – such as scanners – that had been implemented by the previous administration.
Guidance counsellors and other social and medical professionals were callously terminated.
Speaker Annisette-George’s denial of a legitimate request for a debate on the crime scourge prompts the question: Who does the national Parliament really serve?
Did President Weekes’ painful concerns resonate with the powers-that-be?
Does the Rowley Government appreciate how grave the crime bane really is?
In the midst of the opening jamboree of the Red House, a Government Minister gushed that her “pores raised” at the modern architecture and facade.
Neither that Minister nor any of her colleagues appears to be emotionally moved by the killing fields that Trinidad and Tobago has become, with murderous violence all over our land.
Young offered another dose of platitudes at the end of the discussions about “working 24/7 to make Trinidad and Tobago a safer place”, but there was no word on the use of modern technology, intelligence gathering and revised strategic approaches.
He simply conceded: “I certainly can’t put a timeframe on when you would see X number of results etc.”
The Security Minister continues to idly dwell in hope
In other words, the Security Minister continues to idly dwell in hope.
Even as he engaged in his talk shop, weapons are becoming more sophisticated and widespread, criminals are turning more dreadful and fearless and offences are getting more horrific and bizarre.
T&T is in a deep crime abyss, and the Government’s tired and stock response has led us into the wretched company of the most violent societies on earth.
Young spoke airily of “dialogue with some of the stakeholders going forward”.
But his administration’s legacy on crime-fighting is essentially that of avoiding responsibility, laying blame, hosting discussions and seeking to alter the narrative.
The Government had previously sought to assign accountability to the Commissioner of Police, to plead for citizens’ patience and to cop-out that crime is an international hot-button issue.
These lame responses are all highly disturbing symbols of an administration without a clue of how to treat with T&T’s most urgent and serious problem, and simply drifting from day today.
The stark reality is that despite the gravity of the emergency, it is not intractable, and countries have regained social peace from even more enormous crime crises.
New York’s return from brazen street warfare is often cited, and, in fact, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has held talks with Rudy Giuliani, whose no-nonsense “Broken Windows” approach led to that city’s relative peace.
The definition of madness, according to an appropriate adage, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
There is a pressing need for courageous leaders
Apart from improved policing techniques, there is pressing need for courageous leaders who are prepared to stake their political careers on resolving this epidemic.
Such a method would give confidence to the besieged country that our leaders are uncompromisingly dedicated and working ceaselessly to re-take our land from a few armed and dangerous lawless operatives.
There have been no purposeful efforts at stemming the importation of guns and illicit drugs, and when Rowley and Young speak of “Mr. Big”, they refer derisively to opposing politicians and not to major underworld figures.
It is long overdue that the authorities seriously consider proven international approaches, including measures that led to dramatic declines in serious crimes in Jamaica.
Rowley, who heads the National Security Council, has emerged as diffident on crime, unlike his Jamaican counterpart Andrew Holness, who stared down the problem and assured his country that he would make their streets safer.
Apart from instituting states of emergency and other applications, Holness also embraced the political Opposition and other stakeholders and is constantly overlooking and reviewing the effectiveness of the approaches.
His approach to crime-fighting is similar to what he utilised with respect to the Jamaican economy, where he has also achieved historic successes and is being lauded by reputable international agencies.
In T&T, the Government is fudging financial statistics in an effort to shield the horrid truth of an economy in freefall.
Such absence of candour, along with ineptness, arrogance and ineffective management and direction define the Rowley Government’s response to the crime epidemic.
After four and a half years of an ever-worsening crime toll, the ruling regime remains witless, lacking leadership competencies and creative solutions.
A headless chicken, indeed!