Thursday, February 22, 2018

Prayer: T&T’s only good news story

Lennox Grant logo38

Mark Fraser

 Hand still over heart, after the immediate impact of the latest wrenching murder story, this T&T consumer sighs that there is no new news. For more than a decade, the words “crime” and “plan” have never believably worked together to any good effect.

But last Tuesday night, Jack Warner, drawing upon his incomparably diversified record, was heard reminding whoever was listening of his own 100-point “crime plan”. His surviving output as National Security Minister is a “plan” that remains lying somewhere, inside the multi-level folds of “government”.

Mr Warner recalled his signature “plan” when, with reporters’ recorders running, he happened upon a murder scene on Green and St Joseph Streets in Arima. At that corner, had the Warner plan been implemented, CCTV camera footage would have been available to “identify those responsible for this shooting,” he said.  

Yet another might-have-been eventuality signified the extent to which even Jack Warner, with his plans and his pomps, has become history. Wringing his hands in futility, he prayed aloud: “At some point in time, politics must give way, and the safety of this country’s citizens must become paramount.”

Well, amen. For more than a decade, through the careers of six National Security Ministers, T&T has self-flagellated over the existence or the sufficiency of a “crime plan”. Maybe, indeed, it is time to give prayer a chance.

In the grand old Warner style, his 100-point plan would surely have been published as a full-page ad, to enable the scrutiny, or reappraisal, by a still hopeful public. Now, it appears the people get to hear directly from heaven-accredited divines, such as the bishops, imams and pundit-types canvassed by the Express on Friday.

Equally inspired, the Port of Spain Downtown Owners and Merchants Association issued imprecations against “hybrid management systems” apprehended only to “take us further into the abyss that we see in the vivid images of dead humans and dead birds on our front pages”.

People and birds unwarrantably come to grief at the hands of man. Yet, specific responsibility evades identification. Who is doing most of the killings; who opened the valves, or broke the pipelines, or looked the other way, as crude oil gushed to kill birds, crabs, shrimp, fish?

It’s the story of our times, when detection and correction typically remain beyond reach of human agency. And when such is the mass of the narrative as to induce forgetfulness.

Only dimly remembered is the November 27 spectacular on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway near Trincity. In that episode, the guard in a Sentinel security vehicle was shot dead. Bagfuls of cash, maybe amounting to $17 million, were taken.

And it came to pass that, on Friday as DOMA and the divines were holding forth, a Crime Stoppers’ ad offered a $1-million reward “for any information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for these crimes.”

So much had since happened. T&T needed to be reminded of that Sentinel hit, surpassing in its scale and riveting in its implications for criminal daring and achievement. Unfinished business of unsolved murder marks the character of our times.

Murder, it turns out, is only part of the unfinished business about which attention was nudged on Friday. Amid the constant blare of bloodstained headlines, Ramesh Deosaran’s Police Service Commission moved to remind the world of its existence, its alleged relevance—and also of its essential helplessness.

Claiming a share of the limelight, Prof Deosaran staged a command performance by Stephen Williams, current actor in the role of Police Commissioner. Wearing the braided peaked cap that comes with the part, the top cop let the PSC members vent and vamp for media attention.

Himself without actionable dockets on maybe 400 murders, he heard Prof Deosaran rage over the late-coming of bureaucratic reports owed to the commission. For months last year, while President Anthony Carmona headhunted, the Police Service Commission had functioned only to bristle in impatience over the arrival of Police Administration documents.

As helplessness met helplessness in the PSC conference room, nobody was likely pounding the table. The acting Commissioner would continue to act; and President Carmona’s PSC picks would harrumph for the headlines.

Stephen Williams, in 2008, first choice of the Police Commissioner selection “process”, has become used to ill-use and rejection. Today, he boasts only of his “thick-skinned” nature.

In that capacity, he is the devil that we are getting to know: a man never permitted self-confidence through being celebrated in welcome, and associated with hope. Once again, as T&T casts about here and abroad for a company to  search for candidates, there is an even chance that worse choices are still possible.

In Keith Rowley’s latest act of narrative fulfillment, he is even suggesting an Indian name as this government’s secret choice for Commissioner. How even this government could thus wiggle or wangle its way out of the Manning-PNM Police Service Act 2006 and related constitutional amendments, Dr Rowley did not describe. 

But apart from the prayers by DOMA, and the divines, and by Jack Warner, nothing else is new news, let alone good news.