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A murderous mess

By Raffique Shah

A kind of madness has taken possession of this land, a savagery that has numbed the nation. There is, too, a feeling of hopelessness among the population. We surrender our lives and our souls to a barbarism that, though alien to us, has somehow sprung from within. We ask: how have we arrived at this pitiful pass?

I don't have answers to the many questions that come to mind. What bothers me is I am losing the will to fight back, to resist. In the face of an overpowering evil that stalks the country, I find it increasingly difficult to summon the resolve I once had, that courage to battle injustice, to do unto evil men before they do me. I find that I stay serenely detached from the murder and mayhem that overwhelm us. Not good...not good at all.

If I come across as being fatalistic, forgive me. Hey, yesterday (I am writing on Friday), a woman who was just a couple years my senior was discovered in her bathroom bound, bludgeoned and very dead. Her neighbours claimed that she was one of the nicest persons they knew. That did not impress her killer or killers. Her fate, like that of many pensioners, was in the hands of the mindless. We are easy targets—not much fight, not even flight.

Friday, too, a La Romaine man was found decapitated, his severed head served up on a table at a village bar. I tried to imagine the killer hacking or sawing off the victim's head, then opting for a bit of black humour, planting the severed head in a public place, probably laughing as he thought about the reaction of the person who would make the discovery. Boo! That's all it meant to him—a sick joke.

Then I remembered the young woman whose dismembered corpse was found in Cunupia sometime over the Carnival. Head, arms, feet missing. Again, I conjure in my mind a butcher standing over her body and methodically hacking off parts: head—off you come; right hand, left hand, right foot, left foot. Job, sah! Ah is de best butcher here...or wherever.

Try to imagine the depths of depravity we are dealing with here. Experienced surgeons and pathologists tell of being queasy at times when they conduct procedures or post mortems. Hell, there are butchers who feel sorry for the animals they slaughter. But here we have a breed of criminals who think nothing of carving up human bodies. I shan't be surprised if the ghouls get around to cooking and feasting on choice human cuts.

Seven murders one weekend. Mean average of one-a-day, but we seem set to up the ante. And brazen! The police and army mount a massive cordon-and-search exercise in Beetham. It runs for hours. The troops pack up and leave. Almost immediately, several masked men storm a house in the district, shoot a man dead and set the house on fire. Then they calmly return to their vehicle and ride out of town. It could have been a movie scene from the Wild West.

Police...they don't care about the police. I am yet to understand how he was shot, but Sgt Hayden Manwaring paid the ultimate price for under-estimating these beasts in human form. The reason I'm somewhat baffled is this: you make arrests after a report of an armed robbery, the first thing you do is handcuff and search the suspects. If you do not have a vehicle in which you could safely transport them to a police station, you summon help. You never let desperate men get near your firearm—and surely, you will search the suspects for weapons immediately upon arrest. This is not about hindsight. This is about a drill. Drills save lives.

Anyway, something went wrong and two policemen were shot. One died. True, it's the first fatality of its kind for some time. But law enforcement officers need to understand that they are ready targets for criminals who do not value their own lives. Such mindless men would dispose of anyone who stands in their way. So, not only are safety vests a kind of second skin for officers, but they must also master drills and tactics that have been tried and tested.

The beasts are brazen. They have all but annexed Laventille and surrounding districts, committing crime as if the police did not exist. Some time ago, the authorities indicated that the police and army had established strategic outposts in these "hot spots". Well, the killings have intensified, they take place day and night, and invariably the police arrive after the deed is done to seal off the crime scenes and look for clues. Arrests are few, convictions fewer. Not surprisingly, the killing fields have spread across the country into one-time quiet communities. Nowhere is safe.

In this doomsday scenario, what can law-abiding citizens do to enjoy life, liberty and property, as guaranteed in the Constitution? Nothing I can think of except, perhaps, stay at base, secure your loved ones and hope that a bullet or blade does not out your light. For those who pray, do lots of it. Those who cuss, do not waste time hurling expletives at Jack Warner. The man does not know his limitations. He honestly believes that he has made the country safer for you and me. You will waste a whole cuss on that?

If there is any hope for rescuing this country from becoming a murderous failed state, it resides with decent citizens, not with politicians or even the police. Crime plan after plan fails. From fLying Squad to Anaconda to State of Emergency, those empowered to secure the country have failed us. What an unholy, murderous mess.

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