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Raffique Shah


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The law-abiding will strike back some day

By Raffique Shah
Feb 20, 2011

I am so blasted vex as I write this column (Friday morning), I am seething with anger. The newspapers featured a story complete with photographs showing a group of thugs attacking some farmers and other residents of a farming community in Lopinot. The violent, brazen attack occurred in full view of journalists who had gone to cover the story. In fact, the thugs threatened and attacked media workers who escaped blows only because one of their colleagues knew one of the attackers.

Then I receive news that Norris Deonarine, a man who campaigned for food security for the nation and for farmers' rights, was found dead at his home. Norris was at the scene of the mayhem at Lopinot, and knowing him as I did, his blood must have boiled, as Trinis would say, seeing this gross injustice, not to add criminal act, meted out to people whose crime, if any, was to grow more food that consumers desperately need.

The cause of Deonarine's death is yet to be determined. But whether it was from a heart attack or heartbreak, I am sure last Thursday's incident contributed directly to his untimely demise. Norris campaigned for the People's Partnership during the last elections, no doubt expecting a Partnership government to deliver on food production where previous regimes failed. It must have pained him to see the lip service all governments give to food producers continues unabated, for all the glib talk and promises that emanate from the mouths of ministers.

How could such an assault on farmers go unnoticed by the police and the relevant authorities? Where were the police? If the media were alerted to the story, how could the police not know of that volatile situation? Or were certain rogue cops part of the gang, as some spokespersons for the beaten farmers allege?

Which brings me to just how defenceless we law-abiding citizens are, and why more beleaguered citizens are retaliating against criminals, prepared to face the consequences of their actions. When the Government and the Police Service fail to stem the tide of crime, people like those villagers in Penal would take action to protect themselves.

I am writing this 24 hours after the Lopinot mayhem. I am sure the police have not yet intervened. Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs must know of it: if he does not, he should pack his bags and board a flight to Canada! Why are the men who launched that violent attack not stewing in police custody, grilled about their assault, then hauled before the courts on Monday, having spent a weekend in police cells? Why, Mr Gibbs? The country demands and deserves answers from you. That is why you are paid so handsomely from my tax dollars and those of other law-abiding citizens.

To add to our woes, two Friday nights ago, the Beasts of Beetham struck for the umpteenth time, brazenly attacking motorists on the Beetham Highway. Several people came close to death, many vehicles were damaged with no hope of compensation to their owners, and the police offered no protection or relief to the victims. Mr Gibbs, that highway is a main entry point to the capital city of this country. If people cannot enter or exit Port of Spain freely, where are we living? In the jungle where survival of the "baddest" is supreme?

Ten days ago, my very peaceful neighbourhood was rocked by gunfire. A neighbour returned home around 8 p.m. and was confronted by a gun-wielding bandit who almost killed him, then made off with his vehicle. He immediately reported the incident to the nearest police station in St Margaret's (find out where that is, Mr Gibbs), just a mile away from where the incident happened.

You know what, Commissioner? The officer there told him he needed to report the incident to the Couva station. This man could have been killed. The bandit must have driven the car not far from the crime scene when he reported the matter. Common sense suggests the officers should have sent out an APB and started the hunt for the bandit while their colleagues in whose precinct the crime occurred had time to mobilise and respond. The Couva police came 90 minutes later, took a statement...and that was it!

Now, if I were driving out of my street when that robbery was taking place and I saw a chance to run over the bandit, I would have done it. But I would have ended up in a cell—guess where? In the St Margaret's station! Meanwhile, policemen on duty at the Prime Minister's private residence leave their posts unmanned for a few hours and arrangements are made for soldiers to replace them.

Where is the justice, the equality in the eyes of the law? All over the country the wealthy are subjecting the less fortunate to their money-driven strong-arms. I know of numerous cases in which rich people are riding roughshod over the poor, especially in land matters. If the police intervene, it's invariably to add muscle to the perpetrators' illicit acts because they are bribed.

The truth may be unpalatable, Mr Gibbs, Madam Prime Minister. But it's what's happening on the ground. Law-abiding citizens are under siege, from the law and the lawless. Some day they will muster the courage to strike back—at the criminals, rich or poor, at the police who have abdicated their responsibility to protect and serve, and at the politicians who make only empty promises. Some day.

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