If the murder of Regiment soldier Kayode Thomas was indeed a declaration of war by gangs on the forces of law and order, then this shows the criminals consider themselves powerful indeed.
On the other hand, Lance Corporal Thomas may have been an unintended victim on the “killing fields” of Laventille. With these gang members growing ever bolder and more reckless in their endless cycle of turf wars, it is becoming harder to say who is a target and who is just in the wrong place. L/Cpl Thomas may have been both, given that his killers expended over 30 rounds of ammunition on him.
Whatever the case, this murder in this fashion brings Trinidad, if not Tobago, closer to the garrison state that defines Jamaica’s criminal element. In that country, the dons run their own fiefdoms, often with the active connivance of politicians and other officials.
The case of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, which then Prime Minister Bruce Golding personally intervened in to protect him from extradition to the United States, demonstrates how high drug lords’ influence can reach. Indeed, it is a given that, had the US State Department not exercised its considerable muscle, Dudus would have been free to continue his nefarious activities beyond the reach of the law.
If, therefore, gang lords in T&T now believe they are so well-armed and so well-organised that they can take on the Defence Force, this does not bode well for the society as a whole. Jamaica has allowed the dons to flourish because the violence is contained within specific areas of Kingston, and so perhaps the hundreds of lives lost annually are not considered significant enough to spur real action or long-term policies to serve and save those communities.
This must not happen here. The authorities need to ensure the hunt for Thomas’s killers does not become an excuse for unlawful acts on the part of soldiers and police. In any such exercise, sanctioned or not, the collateral damage of innocent victims is likely to be high.
And, as this newspaper has already pointed out, gun talk is unlikely to yield anything but short-term solutions. This is especially the case when the politicians talking so tough appear to be colluding with criminals through official programmes.
In this regard, a good start would be cleaning up corruption in all make-work Government programmes—a goal that National Security Minister Gary Griffith has been continually talking about since he was appointed ten months ago, with results yet unannounced and so presumably unattained.
In the long term, however, what is required is a pro-active approach that—while containing the gang lords through short-term policing action—actively undermines their influence among ordinary persons seeking assistance, and among politicians seeking votes.