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Raffique Shah


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Crime fight calls for swift, deadly justice

By Raffique Shah
November 11, 2007

Now that Patrick Manning and the PNM have convincingly won the 2007 general elections, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues need to lace their work boots, adjust their coveralls, and get back to work without even a pause for refreshment or celebration. There is no honeymoon after a third marriage. Manning must have sensed a PNM victory well before elections day-as sober observers did-those who were not carried away by highly inflated crowd numbers, especially the paid-for versions. So now, as George Chambers said after his 1981 victory: fete done, it's back to work.

The PM must be reminded that while his victory was resounding, the numbers of votes his party garnered in its core constituencies were less, proportionally, than they were in previous elections. That should signal to him that many PNM supporters stayed away from the polls for one reason or another. PNM people, like many with other party affiliations and those with none, are disillusioned with some aspects of PNM governance. And if he fails to take heed, to note people's concerns and their fears, then he may learn the hard way that constitutionally he was elected for "not more than five years", and maybe much less.

Unabated crime is undoubtedly the number one concern among all citizens. Mr Manning usually reels off a shopping list of measures his government has taken to curb crime. But these are of little comfort to victims of robberies and other violent crimes, especially when the police ritually fail to respond within a reasonable time. In fact, because the police seem to treat with anything short of murder as "petty crimes", most victims don't even bother to report them.

Lest the PM and the Commissioner of Police dispute what I write, let me give them a few examples. By email last week, a couple from the West alerted the population to an explosive but not isolated incident that occurred at a fast food outlet in Glencoe. They had gone to collect an order, only to discover upon entering the premises that a gang of young men was terrorising staff and customers, cussing and threatening loudly. The staff would have already alerted the police.

The gang zeroed in on the woman to the point where one pinched her bottom. The husband intervened, only to be threatened that he could be shot there and then, expletives undeleted. Fortunately for the couple and other customers, nothing further happened. But the fact that the police failed to respond is criminal.

On my street (Christine Kangaloo knows it, since she now represents me), a female resident was attacked one night two weeks ago by a lone bandit who grabbed her gold chain. There are shady characters stalking the street, and although reports have been made, police patrols of the area are conspicuous by their absence. Officers at the nearest police station to us (one mile away) tell us we have to call Couva (six miles away). In California, two bandits held up and robbed two young salesmen in broad daylight. The parlour owner, seeing what was happening, called the Couva police (two miles away). Whoever answered the phone asked that the victims come to the station to make a report! I can go on and on, pointing to police delinquency that give criminals free rein to rob and kill.

Speaking with an ex-soldier friend recently, he informed me that his house was burglarised for the fifth time recently. He counted his losses, and duly reported the matter to the Chaguanas police. "Why bother?" I asked him. "Raf," he replied, "I did that for one reason. If and when I catch the bitches, I am going to kill them...they will never rob again!" And this ex-corporal meant what he said. I know the man, I know what he is capable of.

Is this the road we citizens must all travel? When Keith Rowley's vehicle was broken into recently and his briefcase stolen, had he caught the culprits the headlines would have read: Minister murders bandits! That's where we are heading, Mr Prime Minister.

People will take the law into their hands, will deal with the criminals as they see fit. I was once robbed at gunpoint when the robbers held the advantage. But if ever it happens again, or if ever I can intervene in any criminal act where I have the upper hand, the police would have to cart away corpses, not criminals. Sure, they will arrest and charge me for murder, maybe multiple murders.

But I would much prefer to stew in a prison cell and stand before judge and jury explaining how and why I killed a few criminals, rather than have a pathologist explain to an inquest the gory details of my death. Mr Prime Minister, in the last six years, your government and the police failed to arrest crime. Admit it. Let this be your number one priority. If you do nothing else, you need to restore peace in the country. If you don't, the people will deliver swift, deadly justice-by whatever means necessary.