Saturday, January 20, 2018

No longer average citizens

Sheila Rampersad logo12

Mark Fraser

In this time, average citizens of Trinidad and Tobago can no longer be average. Previously ordinary people have become experts in every field. They have to be judges, magistrates, jurors, national security strategists, criminal and civil lawyers, farmers, environmentalists, social activists, researchers, journalists and seasoned detectives.

No one trusts anyone. No one trusts those in authority. Few matters are resolved. Fewer are investigated. No critical matter has been satisfactorily determined so there is no trustworthy document to which the population can reach to say, “Look it here. The evidence is here. The matter has been put to rest in this or that way.”

Many know this, knew that Emailgate would end with us having to say what we believe rather than what has been thoroughly investigated and determined, knew that Section 34 would fizzle out even as it remained an open sore in the legislative records of this country, knew that the Petrotrin oil spill would be just a spill, with no hard questions asked by any independent authority and no meaningful answers provided.

So now they kill Dana, just so, just so. They empty, the autopsy report gestures, five bullets of undisclosed size into the body of this small, tallawah woman, then sped off, presumably.

While we concentrate on the what and the how of The Event, I, like other citizens, having had to become detective and security strategist, I am thinking: what happened after? Where did the vehicle(s) involved go? What did the PTZ cameras record after The Event?

A journalist colleague received news of Dana’s assassination 35 to 40 minutes after The Event. I assume, therefore, that law enforcement, whom it is agreed arrived on the scene with commendable speed, knew who was felled and noted the precise, organised manner of the execution within 20 to 25 minutes of The Event.

Officers on the scene contacted their seniors. 

What happened next? Does our national security apparatus have an emergency plan? Was that plan triggered? The vehicle(s) involved left the scene but for where? Assuming the killers exited onto Wrightson Road, unless they planned to drive south into the sea, they logically would have turned east to head out of Port of Spain, or west heading into the Diego Martin or Carenage/Chaguaramas areas. Westward is home of the army, the Coast Guard, and numerous seafaring vessels.

Assuming that the killers had a head start of a generous 30 minutes, why were no helicopters deployed? In the discussion about the mechanics of the investigation and many dubious “sources said” theories, I have heard no one reference helicopters or any form of aerial search immediately after The Event. I wonder why?

Furthering my impression that Trinidad and Tobago either has no emergency plan for events such as these or that plan was not triggered—unless, of course, new information points me in a different direction—was the fact that it took the Prime Minister too many hours to speak to The Event; the PM’s statement was issued on Sunday afternoon, many hours after midnight Saturday and after many others had already spoken.

When the PM did speak to the nation, it was via a news release in which she spoke about an impending emergency meeting of the National Security Council. I would have thought that by Sunday afternoon, the PM would have already convened that meeting and taken some decisions that would reassure the population of an imaginative way forward. Indeed, while I waited for the PM to speak, I was certain that she was locked away in a security briefing via teleconference.

But the National Security Council “emergency” meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Monday, 39 hours after The Event. The meeting, oddly, was held at the new San Fernando Teaching Hospital. I don’t know why. When asked, the PM replied that the Cabinet has met there before but that isn’t an explanation.

The newsworthy items from that “emergency” meeting were an increased bounty and an amber alert. 

The morning of the “emergency” National Security Council meeting, National Security Minister Gary Griffith caused some people to turn off their TV sets when he pointed to the then million-dollar ransom, telling the public they could become millionaires overnight. Like the game show host in Slumdog Millionaire, he could have said “Who wants to be a millionaire?” to music from “Smokin’ Aces’’. 

The bloated $3.5 million reward has been put into perspective by The Economist: “If the culprits are found and the courts move at their usual pace, that should be payable some time after 2020.” I add that, given the manner of Dana’s execution, the bounty is presumably accompanied by full-body Viking armour, a vehicle al la President Obama’s Beast, new identities for the informant and everyone he/she knows, and the thing that no amount of money could pay for—trust. 

I take consolation, however, that many police officers knew and liked Dana, are devastated by her killing and seem ready to exhaust all their training and experience to resolve the crime in her memory. 

RIP Citizen Dana. You earned the title.