THERE is no denying that the Beetham Gardens community has suffered abject neglect over the years, but that could never be justification for what transpired on Thursday morning when residents threw debris onto the Beetham Highway and Priority Bus Route and terrorised commuters on both roadways.
Passengers in various vehicles were left with nowhere to go as all manner of material littered the east-bound lane of the Beetham Highway, bringing traffic to a grinding halt. With men approaching them menacingly—and shots being fired and missiles being thrown amongst the gridlock—occupants of these vehicles would have been fearing for their lives, with no escape route in sight.
Some attempted to turn around, taking to the shoulder to drive into the oncoming traffic, while the majority were forced to sit and suffer, praying for their personal safety.
It was pure chaos and a harrowing experience that one would not wish upon their worst enemy.
Whether the residents’ action was in response to the arrests of two “community leaders” earlier that day—or a protest over conditions in the area and a lack of job opportunities, as some claimed—to subject fellow-citizens to such terror tactics cannot be condoned.
Entertainer Nikki Crosby was among those caught in the melee and she was reduced to tears by what she was forced to endure by those who used innocent, unsuspecting citizens as helpless pawns as they vented their anger. These actions should never be tolerated. And those involved are only alienating anyone who might be sympathetic about the poor state of the community, with its clogged drains and littered streets. Anyone trapped in Thursday’s blockade might now think twice before extending a helping hand to someone from Beetham Gardens, to the detriment of the many law-abiding, civil-minded residents of that area who will be tainted due to their neighbours’ unwarranted terrorism.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was among those voicing disapproval of such gross misbehaviour.
“Regardless of the circumstances that may prevail in the communities, there is no excuse for the lawlessness that we saw yesterday,” said Dr Rowley.
The PM said his administration’s support for law enforcement is “unwavering” and that all national security agencies “have the full support of the State to enforce the law in Trinidad and Tobago regardless of who you are, where you are and what your status is in this country”.
He warned that without that, “what we will be accepting is anarchy and persons who are calling on others to break the law, to incite violence and who justify it in whatever way will find no sympathy from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago”.
We would expect nothing less than such tough talk, but as head of the National Security Council, Prime Minister Rowley must also berate the Police Service and Defence Force for what is seen as their poor response time to Thursday’s flare-up, especially as senior officers would be well aware of the adverse reaction anytime a “community leader” is arrested in that area.
A strong police and army presence should have been maintained throughout that day and into the night, so as to not allow the rabble-rousers any window of opportunity.
We trust that lessons would have been learned from this sad situation, so that no one would again be subjected to such deviant action by individuals with no respect for the rights of others.