July 17, 2005
By Raffique Shah
TWO "wake-up calls" in as many days, one from Mother Nature, the other from some demented person or maybe a self-proclaimed-Jihadist, and how do Trinis respond? In our usually warped way of thinking, we blame the police for lack of vigilance in the case of the crude explosive device that exploded at one of the busiest corners in the capital city. As for the close shave we had with Emily, many sought to blame the government as well. Should we not instead look into the mirror, examine our images and consciences, and determine that we are part of the problem?
First, examine the "bomb" that was planted in a garbage bin, let's say by "Bin Garbage". For the mindless sub-human who did it, it would have been the easiest act outside of urinating against a wall in the city in broad daylight. Realistically, the "mad bomber" will have simply "set" his device, casually thrown it into the bin, and moved on. Even if an entire squad of policemen and soldiers was on duty close to it, they will hardly have noticed the act. Throwing "garbage" in a bin is a normal.
The only possible way we might have had leads to who "Bin Garbage" is was if we'd had surveillance cameras mounted overlooking that spot. In fact, if we must protect ourselves from these fringe elements, we'd need to plant cameras in almost every town and even village in the country. Planting explosive devices to terrorise, not to add maim or kill innocent people, is one of the easiest acts to commit. No amount of security can properly protect us from demented minds. Welcome to the world of terrorism.
In London, one of the most secure cities in the world - and I say this because of the efficiency of their police service and other security agencies-they fell victims to a four-pronged attack.
It's only after they did forensic tests and looked at miles of surveillance tapes and other still and video clips, that they were able to zero in on some suspects. And they are still not sure that they have their hands on the real culprits. Moreover, there are some rather plausible conspiracy theories circulating about what really happened there, and it may take quite some time before they can pin down the perpetrators.
If London cannot prevent such acts, how on earth do we expect backward Trinidad and Tobago to so do? Sure, we can take greater precautions, and we can spend some of the huge sums government plans to plough into unnecessary ventures into making the country more secure. It will cost, and I hope people don't cry "waste" if the government so decides. But all the cameras in the world, policemen planted at every lamp post, nothing can protect us from the "Bin Garbages" of today. A device like the one that exploded on Frederick Street is easy to make, easier to conceal, and just as easy to plant anywhere.
I know I will draw fire for using the term "Bin Garbage", since it points at the fundamentalist Muslim community. I use the term as a matter of convenience, but the reality is that most of today's terrorist acts are perpetrated by people who proclaim themselves Muslims. And I use "proclaim" deliberately. They are not Muslims. Hey, I was born one, so I know enough about the religion to say that a topee-and-kurta outfit does not a Muslim make. The Qur'an does not promote murder and mayhem in the name of Allah.
As for our close shave with Emily, while scientists tell us that intense hurricane seasons are cyclical, there is an over-abundance of evidence to show that global warming is largely responsible for the erratic climate changes we are being subjected to. Heat waves in temperate countries, snow in the desert, earthquakes and tsunamis .what more do we need to tell us something is radically wrong?
Governments do have a responsibility to take maximum measures to mitigate the effects of any such weather extremes. In our case, they must ensure that the hillsides and forests and not razed or denuded by deviant citizens. They must also clear water courses, make hillsides more secure to prevent landslides, and find ways of speeding up the drainage of water in areas like downtown Port of Spain, the Caroni and Caparo river basins. They also need to establish a network of reliable hurricane shelters, not the dilapidated schools and community centres they now use.
But how many of us, citizens who say we are Trini-to-the-bone, are responsible for the havoc that such weather conditions wreak? Hey, it's not only slash-and-burn donkeys that endanger the hillsides. Look at the very wealthy who do what they will with our hills and valleys, seemingly beyond the reach of the law. Government must have the balloons to order them to stop the damn nonsense or we will face the dire consequences of our own collective stupidity.