It used to be defined by the Fish Market, in the pre-refrigeration days when fish was freshly hauled in from boats anchored in the mud downstream of the lighthouse. Occasionally, it has since surprised me to realise that people still reside thereabouts, in a setting actually downmarket of Beetham Gardens, the former Shanty Town.
Shanty Town means nowhere now, but Sea Lots survives, as an expression and as a dateline. Winding off the highway, through that industrial wilderness to and from the Bhagwansingh's hardware emporium seaward of the flyover, I get reminded of Sea Lots. Nearly no other reason explains finding myself, or other national selves, in or around Sea Lots, the dateline that made headlines last week for sudden deaths, protest actions, and police and political reactions. As always today, the government takes ownership of misfortune. The three dead and three hospitalised victims of a runaway car were immediately reckoned for the account of the powers that be and the powers that had been.
For the very existence of a Sea Lots, a guilt complex is morally attributed to the State. After the three people injured had been taken into intensive care, a cause subsisted in Sea Lots over the quality of care implied by their being warded at the Port of Spain public hospital. Why not, relatives demanded of the government, private and therefore superior care at privately owned Westshore and St Clair?
Neither the PNM nor the People's Partnership administration, the finger-wagging story told, had put up a walkover bridge spanning the highway. Such a bridge would not have prevented the carnage. But the walkover, whether used or not by Sea Lots comers and goers, is a mark of caring. Its absence is accordingly a dark mark that has urgently to be corrected.
That a policeman had driven the death car enormously compounded matters. Sea Lots is a place fresh out of love with people traveling in the cars, wearing the uniforms, and bearing the weapons identified as "TTPS", the Police Service.
Cynically at the ready, the police deployed the riot-squad resources acquired by the Manning administration after 2002, when it feared a Basdeo Panday UNC campaign of "civil disobedience". The police will increasingly show themselves ready for the T&T road where, in expression of any grievance, the literal equivalent of fire and brimstone can be expected to stop traffic, and bring media cameras.
Through the reality of tear gas and rubber bullets fired in Sea Lots, or through apprehensions of a "phantom" formation striking everywhere, the police were destined to command the week's headlines. As bodies fell dead at the hands of mystery assassins, and were found here and there around the country, there was nothing phony about the "war" in which T&T appeared engaged.
At least one Senator, with the contrarian perverseness of an Independent, actually championed the cause of "a properly established Flying Squad, competently staffed and accounted for".
Senator Helen Drayton imagined an openly deployed strike force swooping down on criminal enemies, and not the "phantom anti-crime machinery that no one in authority knows about". It was a week that called forth confessional-type statements about the "phantom" Flying Squad, not only from the Senator but also, with more passion, from Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.
In a 6,000-word outpouring, Mr Maharaj recalled his "younger lawyer" days in 1975 when, during an in-court falling-out, Justice Sonny Maharaj had committed him to seven days' jail for contempt.
The "younger" Maharaj served just eight hours in jail, before raising the $1,000 bail. He later won his Privy Council appeal.
"I was prepared to face the term of imprisonment for the case because if I had apologised I would have compromised the independence and fearlessness of the legal profession," he said last week. His ability to raise that much bail set him apart from many accused persons at the time. He also enjoyed the support of colleagues in the then Bar.
But 1975 was also the heyday of the Flying Squad led by Randolph Burroughs, then acting as assistant commissioner. In skeptical eyes like mine, the Flying Squad operated like a firing squad.
In one Belmont exercise, the squad, with military back-up, laid siege of St Margaret's Lane and carried out house-to-house searches. Nobody asked about warrants, or questioned how one young man was shot dead by police. Then Commissioner Tony May hailed Burroughs as a "fantastic leader". With such historical baggage, the Flying Squad amounts to slack talk today allowed themselves by those who fail to recognise a defunct idea, overtaken by changed times.
While fingerprints are still to be identified on developments in its name today, it remains a nostalgic throwback to now-dead news makers. Mr Maharaj, doing what he does best—making news—confesses to being at his wits' end in finding a political vehicle. All his political successes had come with Basdeo Panday in the driver's seat, a prospect that vanished in January 2010.
His 6,000 words mostly targeted Kamla Persad-Bissessar for having denied knowledge of the 2013 Flying Squad. On that basis, he offered his services once again—even as a "civil society" resource person.