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Raffique Shah


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Hinds should have stood his ground

By Raffique Shah
August 22, 2018

Fitzgerald Hinds made several fundamental errors in judgment that could have turned fatal when he ventured into the flooded Beetham Gardens last week Monday.

The first was to have gone there as the Member of Parliament for the area when there was nothing he could have done for residents whose homes were flooded out, except perhaps commiserate with them. I don't understand why politicians believe their presence in such situations is obligatory. What the victims require is relief as far as that is practical, which means attention from the relevant regional corporations and disaster-management agencies.

They do not need to see their MPs' faces pasted with sorrow, which they know is rank politicking rather than genuine concern-especially when the touring party includes media personnel.

Secondly, knowing Beetham as well as he does, he should have requested support from the security forces, mindful of the miscreants who infest that community. I doubt the police would have accompanied him during the floods, but since he was acting Attorney-General, soldiers might have been dispatched to protect him. In any event, he should have carried his personal firearm and been prepared to use it if the need arose.

And the third and most fundamental error he made was to have run from the rather small pack of "pot-hounds" whose barking was manifestly more dangerous than their bites. In my view, had he stood his ground, the worst that might have happened was a few more splashes of flood-water. I don't believe they would have physically assaulted him, or worse.

Now, I know Hinds and many readers would say it's easy for me to pontificate from the safety of my computer keyboard, that I was not on the ground facing the attack. That's why I prefaced my comments by saying that Hinds should not have gone there, and certainly not unaccompanied.

From what I saw and heard in the video-clip, though, I sensed no mortal danger. The pot-hounds behaved like any canine pack, and appeared to be emboldened only when the MP started retreating, then running away. If they'd had sinister intent, they would have first shut down the television news camera and crew, although today's criminals seem to care little about starring in videos as they commit heinous crimes.

My main concern over Hinds' choice of flight over fight is this: it gave the Beetham thugs bragging-rights, they having already hounded out a squad of heavily-armed soldiers and police officers some time ago, a most shameful retreat of the military as I wrote then. They have repeatedly chased the police while they were on their lawful duties. Electricity and other utility workers have been robbed and flogged, and contractors who are hired to do any kind of remedial work have to pay the thugs money for "protection" of their equipment and employees.

In other words, the Beetham is a lawless state within a state that apologists for its criminal elements argue that we, the law-abiding citizens, must coddle rather than riddle…with fire.

I cannot and will not accept that, which makes no difference now that I am a Parkinson's-stricken old geezer, not the daring young, fit and highly-trained army officer I was decades ago.

The irony of the Hinds' debacle is that he is paying today for the sins of the Father of the Nation, Dr Eric Williams, who, almost with his bare hands, carved out Beetham Estate from the cardboard-and-rusting-galvanize Shanty Town, an eyesore at the gateway to the capital city.

The imps who attacked Hinds have no idea that their forebears, mostly small-islanders, once lived in abject squalor, and post-1970, Eric decided to back-fill the murky swamp and build bricks-and-mortar hovels to house them. As a young MP in 1978, when the Government kept extending Beetham closer to the massive garbage dump then called "The Labasse", I pleaded with the PNM to not put human beings next to the corbeaux-ridden mountains of garbage. I warned that those people would morph into "human-cobos".

Cuthbert Joseph, a senior attack-dog for Dr Williams, responded: You go and tell the people that, Shah! He knew the would-be residents would have torn me apart.

Today, indeed for many years now, the black hen chickens have come home to roost and plunder. That gateway to Port of Spain is the nesting ground for the sickest criminals in the country. Other citizens travel through the three arteries that traverse that death-zone in fear.

The politicians have harnessed the greed of Beetham residents, their mercenary instincts, to suit their political ambitions and goals. Mostly, it's PNM-country, a bank of votes that can be bought for trinkets, with the lion's share of the handouts going into the hands of the "baddest" gangsters.

The UNC would not be excluded from the flesh-feast: many people forget that in 2012, Jack Warner and Kamla Persad-Bissessar launched the $10 million "Hoops of Life" basketball programme-where else?-in the Beetham. NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal hoisted Kamla to dunk the first ball, and it was the last we heard of that anti-crime initiative.

Sociologists and bleeding-hearts apologists tell us what the deviants (as distinct from the decent residents) want is employment. I insist they want money, the easier the merrier. I also argue that these "badjohns" are no "badder" than you or I.

All it takes is a few courageous men to stand up, to be prepared not to die for what you believe is right, but to ensure the other fella dies for doing what you know is wrong.

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