Like the towering crime problem, basketball star Shaquille O'Neal stood between the Prime Minister and Jack Warner. A pitched tent and a big cheque brandished: problem solved. Young, black males, living under the watch of the nation's garbage, take their usual place as the face of criminal enterprise.
If the PM wishes to pitch a tent, take this advice. Pitch tents in the downtown core, and the residential areas with the massive houses and slipways to the sea. Announce and fearlessly execute search warrants on the homes and businesses of the big players in the trade in drugs, arms and violence. Bring in the big-shots of crime.
Days before redirecting the small-man to basketball instead of crime, Warner managed to re-route opposition to his national security appointment. As such, the distracted debated the course of the billion-dollar highway to Point Fortin instead of Warner as minister. Now, with the decrepit Beetham as backdrop, the PM forgot her Government's previous shack-attack under the State of Emergency and renewed love for the community. This is another Warner re-routing, diverting attention to the lower rungs, away from the folks at the top.
The mixed views on Warner are evidence of the country's desperation to save itself. The day after his appointment, Warner and Collin Partap trampled the separation of powers, and those mixed views resurfaced. They show off a country repressing its inherent sense of justice in favour of the means assumed necessary. In time we will discover that it is difficult to defend the law by breaking it, a matter the SOE should have taught.
Even the Attorney General (AG) found a cover for Warner, as usual. The AG's statement that Warner's presence at the removal of protesters, "prevented the desecration of religious deities", is ole-talk. Warner is neither a minister of religion, nor the minister responsible for ecclesiastical affairs. Clearly, there is a well-known legal path for dealing with protesters, if it comes to that. It does not help the optics that contrary to Warner's assertion, he did not merely "show-up" or "turn-up" at the protest site with arms folded. Newspaper photos show the two ministers toting away protest paraphernalia, and carrying with them the chronic misunderstanding of office which besets politicians.
With protest tents down, the PM and Warner pitched tent in Beetham.
The big question is why do politicians always pitch a tent amongst those whom they help the least and brandish a big cheque in the name of reversal and renewal they know will not happen. With each garish political display, we should consider the more deserving community and national events and causes, which require lots of hard work to get on their feet and stay there.
There are many community sporting, arts and cultural activities which will relish a Shaq-size boost from the Treasury. The question is why does the money always make its way on political legs to the broken, decrepit, urban communities, with little value in return? Why do these drive-by handouts make it to the top of every politician's list, no matter which party is in power? Why do smart politicians love bad boys?
Many community events and causes wish for some State funding to expand and strengthen, but without it they will still survive. The State does not have to dole out millions in the whimsical manner of the Shaq-attack. It can provide sustainable support to existing projects by paying for the involvement of the growing numbers pursuing the UWI and UTT sport management, and culture management programmes.
The Government can pay for access to the talent in the local cricket board, Pro-League and other national organisations working in sports, the arts and culture.
In 2012, the Minister of Finance should be looking to see how the State can work with individuals, the private sector, NGOs and community-based-organisations to buy access to recreational facilities, programmes, practitioners and specialists, and on-going technical support.
The minister can reconsider the personal and business incentives for sport, other physical and recreational activities, health and wellness, and the arts and culture. Instead of spending taxpayers' money on urban white elephants, the minister could use fiscal incentives to encourage the improvement of existing community facilities and programmes and to encourage parents to spend time and money on physical activities.
For community sport, the arts and culture the State can promote and facilitate coverage by the State-owned media; provide scholarships to deserving participants; provide training for organisers in event planning and execution; sponsor foreign tours for the best; offer State jobs to those who excel in community organisation, management and leadership; pit community against community; and honour the best.
Community development is more than bongo and tassa drums, folk dancing, and turning pots at the Queen's Park Savannah once a year. It is the responsibility of the State to harness, recognise, reward, and clear the path across the country, and not just Laventille, Beetham and the train line in Marabella.
And if the PM and Warner still wish to pitch their tent and spend money to fight crime, take this additional advice. Pitch tents amongst the money launderers, and those who still use shop-fronts as a facade.
Announce legislation for the forfeiture of any asset which is reasonably believed to have been acquired through the proceeds of criminal activity; announce the recruitment of well-trained and experienced prosecutors for money laundering, and offences relating to the transit of tainted financial assets; and announce the resourcing of the office Director of Public Prosecutions and the Magistracy, the creation and resourcing of an Ethics and Integrity Commissioner, and the appointment of special prosecutors for corruption in public procurement.
The PM should forget the farce of big money for bouncing balls and put the dollars where they make sense. For once, show that in the male-dominated Ministry of National Security, fortitude is more than just big basketballs.
• Clarance Rambharat is a
lawyer and university lecturer