The Police Service (TTPS) and Environmental Management Authority (EMA) have done well to stand their ground in service of the laws on assault and noise violations over this Carnival season. In doing so, they have set a no-nonsense tone for the remaining weeks of a short, jam-packed season and sent a signal that lawlessness, large or small, will not be tolerated, no matter who the offender and how culturally acceptable the offence.
A country spinning in a vortex of crime that has already claimed more than 30 lives in 17 days will be na´ve to not connect serious, violent crimes with everyday lawlessness.
It is imperative that leaders—political, economic, cultural and law enforcement—speak with one voice and demonstrate through their actions that all assaults on law and order take the country further down the road towards the wanton violent criminality that has left the population cowering.
Soca megastar Machel Montano enjoys a cultural pulpit from which he commands adoration and respect, a position of influence he has utilised to comment on the state of the society and to assist communities of young people, most notably in Sea Lots. Himself a father of two daughters, Mr Montano invited Stumped fete-goers last Saturday night to “take lock-up” rather than obey the law on wining-assault as articulated by the TTPS.
His statement echoed many male views on social media that somehow wining on women without their permission is indeed permissible, views that this newspaper consider unacceptable and frankly uncivilised. Much more is expected of the country’s iconic soca representative.
Mr Montano is knocking on the doors of hypocrisy. He was found guilty on five charges of assault in 2013. By his own account, the fracas outside Zen nightclub resulted from his rejection of a woman’s wine. The verdict was appealed and the case is to be retried. At the time of the verdict, Mr Montano was ecstatic that he escaped a custodial sentence.
While most T&T men have evolved subtle, sophisticated wining protocols, some have not and it is those offenders to whom the TTPS’s warning is directed. It is an insecure masculinity, indeed, that interprets permission-seeking as a challenge to Carnival enjoyment. Mr Montano’s counsel to seek forgiveness rather than permission, taken to its logical end, is encouragement to violate women and then plead remorse.
Unsolicited wining on mainly women has become as culturally prevalent as noise. At the same Stumped event, promoter Dean Akin, bandleader of Tribe, Bliss and several other profitable Carnival ventures, not only allowed violations of his EMA permit but sought to justify it with hyperbolic arguments about the death of Carnival should the EMA continue to enforce the law.
A constant refrain in the current climate of lawlessness is the incapacity of law enforcement to uniformly enforce laws.
The TTPS and the EMA are trying to do just that. They must be met half way by cultural leaders demonstrating their capacity to abide by the laws, whether or not they agree with them. Comply and complain is an easy remedy within the reach of both Mr Montano and Mr Akin.