Joint crime plan stirs limited hope
Promisingly, the PNM Opposition and the Government appear willing to work together on advancing progress against crime. It is of course big of the Keith Rowley-led PNM implicitly to embrace responsibility for the problem of crime and also for the solutions.
Delivering his Independence anniversary address, Dr Rowley apparently interpreted today’s worrisome crime to mean that the State had “abjectly failed in its first duty to its citizens”. Rather than washing his hands of responsibility for such failure, he is commendably promoting “togetherness” and actually joining with the Government to work for solutions.
The PNM Opposition had already started talks with Ministers led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Dr Rowley’s team had also tabled its own proposals toward a “crime plan”.
Notably, such proposals have concerned police and policing. This confirms the intractable nature of problems besetting that key law-enforcement agency. For the PNM Opposition today had been for eight years a Government that had variously sought to transform, modernise, and strengthen the leadership and the institutional capacity of the police.
Dr Rowley had himself been a Cabinet minister when legislation was passed and rules spelt out to govern selection of a Police Commissioner. Dr Rowley is now calling for “immediate abolition of the existing laws and rules” provided under Police Service Act 2006, and for an “immediate manpower audit” of the organisation.
Judging from the response of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, Dr Rowley could well feel that he is pushing against an open door. For the Prime Minister expressed herself as “heartened that the (Opposition)… putting aside partisan politics… has agreed to meet and discuss ways and means to deal with the crime problem.”
Assurance about the commitment of Opposition allies allowed the Prime Minister, in her own Independence message, to speak spirited fighting words: “We will confront this challenge together; and we will overcome it together. Every resource at our disposal will be used to win this war.”
In further rallying rhetoric, she vowed: “I will wage a war unlike any seen before and at the end of the day, all of us, you and me, Trinidad and Tobago, will win.”
T&T hopes that where there is a joint will, there must be a credible way, in the form of a crime plan with a fighting chance of making a real difference. As yet that remains to be seen.
Experience warns that the two sides, neither individually nor collectively, have what it takes to accomplish this mission. To devise and deliver workable and sustainable police reforms toward defeating crime, a wider range of expertise and experience should be drawn upon. This is clearly superior to any rush-job recycling of ideas by two parties hardly noted for the freshness of their thinking and not at all celebrated for the effectiveness of their solutions.