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Raffique Shah


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Our politicians have lost their souls

September 25, 2005
By Raffique Shah

LAST weekend, speaking with the media after the PNM general council meeting, its Chairman John Donaldson said during the meeting the party's leader, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, boasted that if general elections were called soon, the PNM would win a landslide victory.

Donaldson spent much time "flexing" before the media until some reporter asked him if they had discussed the near-crisis crime situation. After all, a murder-a-day, unabated, more violent kidnappings (journalist Judy Raymond's son and a few other victims were still in the hands of kidnappers), one would expect the people who govern the country to at least put crime on their agenda. "No!" Donaldson responded emphatically. "We did not discuss that at all."

But a week in politics in a hell of a long time, experienced politicians would tell you. In fact, days after that meeting, Dr Eddie Koury, nephew of Health Minister John Rahael, was robbed and kidnapped, leaving only a bloody trail behind him. Within hours the police stormed a house somewhere in Mausica and detained five persons. Then on Thursday, when Works Minister Colm Imbert was the main speaker at the post-Cabinet media conference, he asked a similar question: did the Cabinet discuss the crime situation? "Yes," he responded in a rather sombre manner, his head bowed: "We spent much time discussing the issue."

Now, for some time people have been telling the Government that only when crime hits home, close to them, maybe, just maybe, they would be forced to act. It's not that anyone with a modicum of humanity would wish the ministers ill will, nor, of course, would anyone condone Koury's kidnapping. Far from it, those who have lived through the trauma of the crime-rampage-robbed, violated in the worst manner, beaten, possibly raped or buggered, and stripped of their valuables-will not wish the horrible experience on their worst enemy. Still, one cannot help but think that it took a bullet too close to their collective ears for Cabinet members to at least get a little more serious about crime.

This is unacceptable, even nauseating. Ordinary citizens of this country have endured a crime wave that is so intense, little wonder God has spared us the ravages of a Katrina or a Rita. In fact, She has punished this nation with a vengeance worse than that of the God "Moko", by imposing on us complete idiots for politicians! Really, how else does one explain the uncaring nature of the Government, the double punishment crime victims have to endure-torture from the bandits and kidnappers, and more torture at the hands of the police?

Sadly for victim number-however-many, his uncle happened to be a member of the general council that did not discuss crime last weekend. Mercifully for him, his uncle did manage to persuade his Cabinet colleagues, after the brutal fact I should add, that it must be discussed. One wonders if the criminals need to get even bolder, and, say, take the wife or child of some minister hostage before the Cabinet not merely discusses the issue, but they move "dread" against the few sub-humans who are holding the nation to ransom, almost literally.

Maybe as citizens that's what we must do to get some relief: beg the bandits (well, we have grown accustomed to begging, cowering before them) to do us the big favour. But unlike the heartless politicians, our people are by and large a humane lot. And no one would wish for such an occurrence. But one cannot help but think: what the hell going on in this place? Minister Martin Joseph waves two same-day newspapers from the UK before our eyes, brandishes the headlines about police incompetence before our eyes, and expects us to take him seriously. A child can go on the Internet and learn that the murder rate in this country, measured on an international scale (for every 100,000 people), ranks us at number five! Number five, Mr Prime Minister!

Doesn't shame count for anything anymore? However inept the police may be, whatever the trends in crime worldwide, what can justify the level of lawlessness that is savaging the soul of the nation? Mr Manning can crow like a rooster about winning the next elections because he sees before him an opposition party that is imploding. But does he not see that while he may again win the prize of Prime Minister, he will, in the process, have lost most of his people? Does he not feel ashamed that even as the country wallows in unforeseen wealth, it's gutter-deep when it comes to crime and law enforcement?

I know the PM and most of his colleagues, including chairman Donaldson, are God-fearing men and women or so they would have us believe. I leave them with my version of a biblical injunction: what does it profit a party to gain the material world when its leaders lose their very souls?