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Raffique Shah


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Resign - if you can't control crime

September 11, 2005
By Raffique Shah

TWO weeks ago I drew to the attention of those in authority-Prime Minister Patrick Manning, National Security Minister Martin Joseph and Police Commissioner Trevor Paul-incidents of crime that I knew about personally, in which the police acted more brutally towards the victims than the bandits. Today, I am again forced to return to the scene of the crime. Not that I expect anything to be done about those who were culpable. But when one sees the country sinking in a sewer of crime from which we seem incapable of extricating ourselves, one needs to talk out, even if it means blowing in the wind.

Mr Manning sits smugly at most of his public appearances, proud of his Vision 2020, and regaling us with a string of prestige projects that his government is embarking upon. I think the sheer size of these projects-a billion-dollar Waterfront project, an $850 million Sports Complex at Tarouba, a $60 billion bring-back-the-rail initiative, spanking new housing in East Port of Spain, and his latest gig, the flattening-and-building-back of Laventille-betrays the trappings of a leader stuck in the port-colonial mode. Look back in history, into the immediate aftermath of independence, and you'd see so many forerunners to Manning, all of whom failed their people, and most of whom came to ignominious, if not fatal, ends.

There is a deep anger among the people, and here I talk PNM people, UNC people, none-of-the-above people, that the Government neither sees the real problems in the society, nor do they care about the plight of the citizens. I had planned, in the run-up to the Budget, to focus on the fate of our senior citizens. It pains me when I see how these people, many of whom have given their sweat and blood to enable us to reach where we are today economically, living like castaways in their own country. Worse for them they listen to the politicians speak in billion-dollar-language, something they cannot comprehend.

But in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, these pitiful souls may find it easier for them to hasten towards the hereafter. Imagine the families of victims of kidnappings having to beg-yes, Mr Manning, beg-the mental-dregs of the society for the return of their loved ones. Think, Mr Joseph, of your mother having to plead with bandits who could well be her grandchildren, beg for mercy as they beat and rob her. Consider, Mr Paul, the fate law-abiding citizens who, having been violated by these scumbags, have to face further humiliation at the hands of your junior officers.

It boggles the mind that some four years after criminals seem to have taken full control of the country, the police and the politicians cannot come up with solutions. If I were in office, I would resign. And here I mean the entire Government, since Cabinet has collective responsibility for good governance to the country. The police hierarchy should resign since they cannot control their charges, many of whom are in collusion with the criminals. As for Brigadier Peter Joseph's highly-vaunted Anti-Crime Task Force, it seems to exist more in name than in fame.

I shall mention a few incidents that should shed more shame on the police. Imagine, even as hundreds of citizens are staring down the muzzles of guns and being relieved of their valuables, some policemen find nothing else to do but to chase a "piper" into the waterfront in San Fernando. Cocaine addicts are easy targets for anyone, and I am disappointed that magistrates, when policemen turn up with such cases before them, do not send the arresting officers to be "piped" instead of jailing a hapless "piper". Then undercover cops enter a whore house, take in the carnal offerings, then proceed to arrest everyone, jamettes, pimps, the lot. Could these officers not spend their valuable time staking out known bandits, and catching them in the act? Oh, I can go on and on, but to what end?

I am told (I do have my sources) that the soldiers who work with the police have gathered much intelligence on who the bandits and gangsters are in the several "killing fields" that have sprung up, and elsewhere. But they have also been told not to act. Who gave those orders? Mr Manning, just who are protecting the criminals, allowing them to feast on the population you swore to protect and serve? When a people have reached the limits of their endurance of misgovernment, when State institutions virtually disintegrate, people take the law into their own hands.

Be warned, Prime Minister. This country is perilously close to an upheaval that will make the events of July 1990 look like a tea party. And no amount of money will save those who have brought us to this sorry pass. Act now, act decisively, or face the consequences that are sure to follow.