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Rejecting the State of Emergency

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 30, 2011

Is either I stupidly or Anand and dem know many things I don't know. But I didn't know that one had to declare a state of emergency to capture some gang leaders and charge them with possession of marijuana or cocaine. I didn't know that the only way to solve the crime problem was to declare a state of emergency and arrest about five hundred young people (call them gang members) from Black areas in order to solve the crime problem. If so, the PNM was more than stupid to hold its hands until the PP discovered that it takes a state of emergency to capture all these black people so easily.

The Attorney General declares that few crimes have been committed since the state of emergency was declared. Given such thinking it seems logical that they should continue the state of emergency for the foreseeable future. When Parliament convenes on Friday to discuss the matter one should have no objection to keeping the state of emergency in place for the next three months as I am sure that is what the PP will be asking for. In that way we will really solve our crime problem.

But such a solution suggests that the PP had no crime plan to begin with. How come after fifteen months in office the only solution they could come up with to solve the crime problem is to declare a state of emergency, arrest some young black men and, as I hear the A.G. and the Brigadier put it, commandeer Tarouba Stadium to house these black outcasts; the Mr. Bigs as they called them? At least this is one legacy that the PNM left for them—a place in which to incarcerate our own.

But is this any way to solve the crime problem? When the PP announced the imposition of a state of emergency many luminaries in high places endorsed the action but, as Martin Daly pointed out, he felt let down. He felt that the PP was not going after the real disturbers of the peace—the men and women who bring coke into the country; the men and women who launder the proceeds of the drug money; and the men and women who bring the guns into the country which we all acknowledge is a major source of the sky-rocketing crime rate.

But no one in high places has been snapped up by the government. We are told that the gang leaders from Laventille and Morvant and Nelson Street are really the Mr. Bigs; that they have attained a level of organization that would make our leaders of industry look like little boys; that their capacity for organization is such that they are the tails that are wagging the dogs or is it that they are the dogs (the Mr. Bigs) that are wagging the tails. In fact, they are so efficient they should have organized the state of emergency rather than leave it to the government who has made a mess of things.

It also might be that the young members of these communities have a penchant for committing crimes. While many crimes are committed in these areas it is also true that much crime—other than criminal acts—occur in other parts of Trinidad. So that while the government is treating the symptoms of crime they are not concerned with the causes of these crimes which suggest that no matter how hard they treat the symptoms the causes remain. This means that the sore will fester and the on-going oozing of the wound will continue.

When the PP came into power they said that they had a plan for crime. We voted them into office because we believed they could solve the crime problem. God curse the days we got down on Martin Joseph and Patrick Manning when they showed an inability to solve the mounting crimes in the country. They were trying to tell us that there were ways other than a state of emergency to solve the crime problem but we were too stubborn to listen. They could have used the state of emergency option but they rejected it not because so many black boys would have been the victims of summary arrests and placed into detention camps but because they knew—and I am sure that they are correct—that a state of emergency only provides a temporary solution that does not attack the root of the criminal problem.

The PNM also knew that once you begin to criminalize the African community you set up two communities and the racial divide that you claimed so proudly to have bridged when you won the election only widens. In so doing you demonstrate to the populace that one community is the source of evil while the other is the source of all that is good.

Tony Frazier alluded to this tendency in a recent article in the Trinidad Guardian (August 17) when he discussed a national advertisement by the PP Government that depicted "a rude, teenage girl being completely unreasonable, demanding and grossly disrespectful to her mother" that was "offensive to the extreme, counter-productive to national development, cohesion, and racist to the core." In modeling "an Afro-Trinidad mother and child, those responsible for the advertisement are saying it is a peculiarly Afro-Trini penchant to be unreasonable in the face of all indications by Government (mother) that it (she) simply cannot afford more at this time...The object here is to persuade the Indo population to the side of the Government and against an Afro-Trini population, stubborn, intransigent and desirous of replacing the predominantly Indo government."

A similar design—that of depicting Africans as a source of national evil—is at work in this declaration of a state of emergency which is why I do not support it and disagree with those who think it is the best thing to have happened in our country since slice bread. It is just another attack against black people to which I am irrevocable opposed.

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