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Parades of trucks and truculence

By Martin Daly

Midway through the current term of this Government we find ourselves once again in the position that the numbers of murders exceed the number of days in the year. This Government is as impotent as the last to stem the tide of violence. There may be insignificant statistical variances showing fewer murders or less other crime than in Manning's PNM time, but the rate of murder is still at red alert.

The failure to apprehend and secure convictions of the perpetrators of murder and other crimes is equally devastating. The flying squads of excuses also remain the same, but they are delivered with truculent, that is bitter and scathing, comments against any opinion, which is not compliant with the wishes of the Government.

I recently suggested to the Prime Minister that she would do well to curb the bilious output from her Government. She has since kicked to the sidelines the broadside of the Minister of National Security against the incumbent Independent Senators following the announcement of a president-designate. She must now consider the minister's truculence when confronted with questions concerning his Ministry.

Since the election of the president-designate some commentators have been listing matters into which he might enquire. While I appreciate the high expectations of him, as well as the hope that he will lead us to a return of some semblance of well-considered and fair decision-making in public life, the president-designate will no doubt be careful to stay in his constitutional section when he takes office.

However liberally he may interpret his role, the new President ought not, for example, ask the Prime Minister to remove any member of her Cabinet, or seek to re-open the Section 34 fiasco, particularly as the matter is now awaiting the reserved judgment of the Court. Constitutionally, he may offer counsel to the Prime Minister, but he is not her supervisor.

The delusion that violent crime is somehow on the mend was fed into extravagant statements that Carnival 2013 was the safest. The basis of this claim was also statistical—a lower number of incidents reported in 2013 over 2012. I can testify that there was nothing safe about Ariapita Avenue in the pre-Jouvert hours and from dusk onward on Carnival Tuesday.

Unprecedented intervention of the police was reportedly deployed on the Avenue on Tuesday night and such intervention was confirmation that central areas of Carnival activities in Port of Spain are not as safe as the politicians would have us believe.

I am also concerned about the way in which motor vehicles hijack access to main masquerade thoroughfares. Motorists brazenly remove barriers from side streets and vehicles are driven through the crowded thoroughfares at unconscionable speeds.

Mind you the whole Carnival Tuesday is in a mess. The parade route has been congested for more than two decades. We cannot continue to pour all the mas bands into the narrow funnel leading to the Savannah stage. Simple arithmetic tells you that if four bands ahead of your band each take forty-five minutes to cross the stage, as fifth in line, if your band is so lucky, you have at minimum of a three-hour wait. Such arithmetic does take into account the unwieldy convoy of trucks, which accompany the large bands, thereby adding significantly to the standstill time and consequential gridlock.

What few seemed to have noticed is this: Each time a new band is formed, such formation may or may not result in a net increase in the number of persons playing mas. What it does mean is the addition of more trucks travelling the parade route. One should bear in mind that when we started using those parade routes, cargo containers had not yet been born. On a normal day in Port of Spain, the manoeuvre of very large vehicles is a problem. On a Carnival day when these vehicles are turning corners or entering junctions, the masqueraders are sent to one side of the road and in many cases there is no room for them in the road.

The case for splitting the appearance of bands at the Savannah, some on Monday, some on Tuesday, is now irresistible. Lots may be drawn by reference to ballot pools comprising small, medium and large bands. It is also possible that once an initial drawing is made bands can thereafter from year to year rotate Monday drawings and Tuesday drawings so that a band does not have the luck of always drawing Tuesday, if that remains the preferred day.

Those with huge commercial interests in the mas are as truculent as the politicians in insisting on their own way of doing things while spectators have been deserting Carnival in droves and masqueraders, like taxpayers, receive less and less value for their money. So trucks will continue to mash up the Carnival just as truckloads of Government truculence are mashing up the place generally.

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