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Raffique Shah


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Cry blood, my beloved country

By Raffique Shah
July 8, 2012

Rarely do I address the same topic for two consecutive weeks, but I feel compelled, in highly unusual circumstances, to alert the nation to the misadventures of National Security Minister Jack Warner. Last week, like many of my columnist colleagues, I took Warner to task over the way he handled the demolition of the Highway Re-Route Movement’s shed. In a country that adhered to the rule of law, Warner would have fallen on his own sword on that issue alone.

But this is sweet Trinidad and Tobago where we play mas’ year-round, where everything is a fete or a joke, where madness is gladness. To round off on this subject matter, as far as we all knew, and based on statements from other government ministers and officials, the inordinate show of force was triggered by the Re-Route Movement’s illegal obstruction of works on the new highway. Right? Wrong!

According to usually loquacious but recently reticent Gary Griffith, the high-command-led attack on Kublalsingh’s bamboo-and-tarpaulin shed was a matter of national security. If we are to believe the Griffith, Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj and Colonel Anthony Phillip-Spencer led a section of soldiers (not a platoon or company or battalion) into battle because the Prime Minister’s life was under threat. Now, one week ago, we plebes were blissfully unaware that devious elements in Kublalsingh’s crew, among them, presumably, those pious-looking women clad in white, had actually threatened to out the PM’s light.

This is serious business—except that coming from the mouth of a man who was among those who had, towards the end of the State of Emergency last year, revealed yet another plot against the PM’s life, but could not adduce a shred of evidence, we have to ask if this is another deflection or deception. The Captain must know that when you are lying, you have to be consistent. I understand where he is coming from: military officers are trained in the art of deception. It is a critical tool in warfare. But it could be a fatal flaw in the realm of politics.

In other words, Griffith, stop talking spit. And don’t even try to tangle with the likes of General Ralph Brown and Brigadier Joseph Theodore—you are way out of your league.

Aside from the crap Griffith tried to peddle as “tooloom”, Warner’s bungling at National Security hurtled full speed downhill. I cannot help but note that even as Sheriff Lobo trained his guns on Kublalsingh, members of Murder Inc, who are not in the least fazed by his appointment or trembling in his presence, were engaged in an accelerated killing spree. Four killed in one strike; a teenage girl shot and left lying on the road like a stray dog and sundry other shootings, rapes, robberies and other crimes committed as if Jack were still in the box.

So, in the face of this gross disrespect, what does Lobo come up with? Give police officers guns and marked vehicles to take home! You want to tell me this man is not mad. Look, citizens under siege would love to have their friendly neighbourhood cops close by, armed and mobile, ready to respond to lawlessness or crimes in their communities. But how practical is it to arm all off-duty cops and provide them with official vehicles?

People are acutely aware that there are many rogue elements in the service who cannot be trusted even when they are on duty and under supervision. Almost every week officers are arrested and charged with criminal offences—and that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg. Alcoholism in the ranks is not quantified, but everyone knows it’s at a worrisome level. And far too many police officers, more than likely above the national average, have serious domestic problems that often erupt in violence, sometimes murder-suicide.

In the face of these realities, Warner wants police officers to be armed at all times, even when they are bone-tired or drunk or asleep, or a combination of all three. Madness! Bandits and murderers would have a weapons-gathering spree. They would target officers who are known to keep firearms, and even if some of them die in the process, in the end they would have more weapons in their arsenals.

Allowing officers to keep their vehicles overnight is an even more preposterous proposition. The police have never had sufficient vehicles to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently, and they probably never will. No police force in the world has the wherewithal to equip every officer with a vehicle. This means that vehicles must be shared. So a station with, say, 15 officers, may have two vehicles (if they are lucky).

If Warner’s proposal were to be implemented, it would result in one of two scenarios. First, when two officers are off-duty and probably sleeping at home with police vehicles parked outside, the stations have no transportation to effectively service their districts. Or second, Warner persuades Cabinet to purchase 5,000 vehicles or more to ensure that every officer has his own “ride”.

Either way, these propositions amount to rank dotishness. What is tragic for the nation, besieged as we are by a seemingly unstoppable crime tsunami, is that while the new minister engages in flights of fancy, we citizens pay the price—in blood, in mindless brutality, and all too often with our lives.

No one expects Minister Warner to bring overnight solutions to a crime problem that has built up over decades. He has no magic wand, just as his many predecessors had no magical solutions. At the very least, however, citizens expect him to outline some realistic plans, to come up with workable proposals to stem the crime-tide. Instead, he has reduced crime fighting to a comical opera: If you don’t laugh, you would cry blood.

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