The Prime Minister found the murders of 2014 so “intolerable, horrific and horrendous” that last Tuesday she summoned members of her National Security Council to an emergency session to ask them: “Why is this happening, and what can we do to ensure that it is stopped?”
The accuracy of that news report I found myself questioning, but then it should not have been challenged, since it appeared in the newspaper which is read only as the newsletter of the UNC Government.
The report quoted further: “As Prime Minister, and as chairman of the NSC, we will no longer tolerate excuses for failure by our protective services to keep our country safe.”
Then the PM promised to take “deeper interest in the action required in her role as NSC chairman”, instructed all heads of protective services to operate at full capacity, and informed members that “they will be held personally accountable”.
At this point I was left in confusion, not too sure what I was reading. Was the report stating that the Prime Minister was admitting, in earnest, that after 30 months in office she was unaware of the tsunami of social anger that is out there?
Has she fully awakened to its creeping manifestations? Has she been assessing the currents in the society for signs of social implosion? What does she see as the biggest threat to our national security?
I paused, in deliberation, asking myself, “Am I getting this wrong?” But then my mind drifted off to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s memorable tale popularly attributed to France’s Queen Marie Antoinette who, when told that the hungry peasants were at the gates demanding bread, responded: “Let them eat cake.”
I recalled the various stories of that 18th century queen who first dazzled Parisian society with her beauty and personality, but because of her political naivety, poor judgment, lavish lifestyle and frivolous spending, her reputation soured. Later she became known as Madame Deficit.
In my musings I did find common ground with the Prime Minister; 24 murders in 11 days—at the time of writing—is a horrendous experience for people in a young nation.
Let’s admit that as modern T&T evolves life has become more complex and tension-ridden. Suddenly, I realised that I have been breathing the same air with strangers. Who are they? Who are the humans distorted into brutes that now walk our land?
I tried to apprehend their psyches; which of our societal tensions stripped them so naked that they were left so devoid of feelings and love that they could no longer search for life’s meanings? What moved them to the brink, and finally to such monstrous behaviour?
I recalled, too, that over 100 years ago journalist Edwin Markham looking in anguish at the wave of violence in the then young American nation, raised the same sentiment in a poem.
In The Man with a Hoe, Markham questioned, just as I did last week, the mind of the human being, “who was so cut off from the light, the music, and dreams” that it could assume such a distorted, murderous shape.
Markham wrote: “Who made him dead to rapture and despair/A thing that grieves not and never hopes/Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?/Who loosened and let down his brutal jaw?/Whose was the hand that slanted back his brow?/Whose breath blew out the light within his brain? “
“What is happening?” the PM asked. Last April, UWI Professor of Psychiatry, Gerard Hutchinson gave us a warning: suicide is a big problem.
At least 25 per cent of the people in Trinidad have thought, seriously at some point, of ending their lives. Add to this, the persons who mutilate themselves, “they cut themselves to externalise their internal pain”.
Further research done among students suggests also that some 25 per cent of them have either tried to kill themselves or had thought of it.
In March, Prof Selwyn Ryan’s Report, “No Time to Quit—Engaging Youth at Risk” gave the PM some answers to questions on criminal gangs, the African-Indian generation crisis, the real workings of the URP, and recommended a National Service scheme.
It also gave suggestions for the fight against officials, including politicians, involved in corruption, money laundering, and embezzlement.
Recently, her Child Protection Task Force, headed by Diana Mahabir-Wyatt also reminded her that 38 children have been murdered in the past four years.
Last week, her Minister of Gender affairs reported that emergency calls to the domestic violence hotline, Childline, had increased from 80 to 200.
Answers abound, Prime Minister. But as you plan your mid-year visit to China, they may be contained, more frighteningly, in the statement Prof Brinsley Samaroo made last February that T&T was experiencing another period of disaffection, and therefore “ripe once again, with all of these various disaffections for a period of resurgence once more”.
* Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in communication and management.