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Lurching from crisis to crisis

By Selwyn Ryan

Not too long ago, Black Stalin warned us mournfully that the country was facing "its darkest hour". (I remember the song but not the year).

Stalin might have exaggerated somewhat.

We may have cried wolf too readily and were more alarmist than we needed to be then.

Whatever Stalin's judgment, it is clear that the country is now lurching from crisis to crisis, and that crisis is now becoming our default mode.

What is more, we have become more aware that there is no obvious short-term exit route available.

We are locked in and locked down. We, and not only the criminal element, are in the remand yard.

In recent months, civil society has had to deal with a number of volcanic eruptions which have shaken it to its foundations.

Every day, we expect to hear or read about some new political bacchanal.

Taken together, these episodes have been tsunamic in their consequence and implications.

First there was Reshmi, then there was CLICO, then the State of Emergency, which was followed by the national hurt and humiliation of Section 34.

We now have the modified Flying Squad with its "mission invisible and impossible".

Every day and in every place we have urban street unrest and heinous homicides.

Reports of corruption also seem to have become commonplace.

The mantra seems to be "the PNM did it, so we can do it too".

We now have to factor in hunger strikes, inconsolate-mothers and grandmothers wailing and weeping in blood stained streets and bedrooms, priests and pastors inveighing about Latin American and mafia-style revenge assassinations and beheadings.

We also have a situation where our police authorities now confirm what gang members have been saying before, viz, that we have rogue cops in our Police Service and that they too control drug turfs and are in cahoots with the criminal element.

Over the past two weeks, the media and the general population at large, has been preoccupied with the Warner "phenomenon", for phenomenon it is. Warner is without doubt our most colourful politician. He is garrulous, hubristic and has out promised all our political leaders combined. He often talks and behaves as if he were the duly elected Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and that the doctrines of ministerial and collective responsibility do not apply to him.

It would seem that Warner learnt his politics in the smoke filled rooms of FIFA and that he believes those norms, values and processes can be made to apply to Trinidad and Tobago. In so doing, he often lands the Prime Minister in a lot of political trouble. The fact that the Prime Minister is a woman serves to complicate the problem, but we will deal with that on another occasion. It is sufficient to say, for the time being, that the mix is toxic, and that Jack would be responsible for Kamla's early political death. This would be ironic, since he is arguably also largely responsible for her being where she is today.

Speaking specifically about allegations and counter allegations that we have had a neo-Flying Squad in our midst for several months and that he was responsible for them being here, Mr Warner has told the country that he knows nothing at all about this rogue police unit in our midst.

Several media reports have provided evidence that there is indeed some "Force" on the ground if not in the air and that it takes its orders from some person or persons in the Ministry of National Security.

Many people in Trinidad and Tobago view American "Mission Impossible"-type programmes and are familiar with how they operate.

Many therefore do not believe that Jack is telling the truth when he denies knowledge of the squad's existence.

They believe that he got caught, and that he should do the honourable thing and "walk".

They also believe that if he refuses to do so, the Prime Minister has no option but to fire him just as she fired the Minister of Justice Herbert Volney and all the others. Not to do so is to appear to tolerate political behaviour which contradicts everything she claims to stand for in terms of transparency and openness.

The Leader of the Opposition and political leader of the PNM and many others have accused the Prime Minister of being afraid to fire Jack because she fears that he would in turn "fire" her and bring down the house of the once risen sun.

The truth or falsity of his allegations about who knew what and when and who did what or when has since been made the subject of investigation by the Ag Commissioner of Police.

The enquiry was announced in Parliament last Friday. No time frame has been given for the investigation, and one might conclude that the matter has been effectively put on ice for the time being. The Prime Minister does not now have to have the matter resolved with any urgency.

Lights have turned from green to red.

Politics however has a way of changing timetables, and one assumes that opposition forces will make capital of the PM's "back foot" initiative. The Prime Minister is clearly on the defensive.

I however believe that she still has some purchase among many citizens, but her stock of political capital is dwindling fast, and may soon be exhausted if it is not topped up soon.

The country awaits the outcome of the Flying Squad Affair.

Unfortunately, levels of trust in the community are very low, and I suspect that many will definitely not accept as authoritative and legitimate what the investigation yield if it is not credible.

One would have thought that someone who was not a party to the matter ought to have been asked to conduct the enquiry.

Instead, the police have been asked to investigate the police and elements in the Ministry of National Security who are their bosses

One understands the Prime Minister's dilemma. She is caught between Scylla and Charybdis, and could fall victim to either tragic outcome.

Ministers of National Security are not easy to come by these days.

But sooner or later, she has to find another "action man" who poses fewer problems for her.

The six months Mr Warner asked for on being appointed has been spent. The promised success about which the he bragged in respect of the "Hot Spots" has not been achieved.

On the question of the Flying Squad, the Minister of National Security has shifted his position somewhat. He has admitted that the allegations of illegalities took place on his "watch" and that he would therefore take "responsibility" for them.

Clearly, he is being clever by half since he is not volunteering to walk.

Herbert Volney was fired for much less. In his case, it was alleged that he lied to his Cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister.

In the case of Warner, he was misleading the country as a whole and not merely his cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister as well.

If he did not know, he ought to have known.

In either case, he is guilty of negligence and of falling asleep on his watch and should be encouraged to return to the private sector.

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