The organisation representing businesses in downtown Port of Spain has taken a sober and measured response to an outbreak of attacks on windows of shops, banks and other city establishments, including the temporary waterfront location of the Parliament. The sudden, even mysterious, incidents of smashings of glass facades cannot lightly be dismissed as nuisance occurrences.
Still, DOMA, the Downtown Owners and Merchants' Association, representing businesses that could regard themselves as potential targets, has avoided sensationalising the episodes, disturbing as they are. For one, the pre-dawn vandalising of the ground floor of the building housing the Parliament must raise eyebrows, if not also alarms among security agencies charged with protection of State installations. The public expects precautionary steps will be effectively taken against any recurrence.
DOMA, however, placed the latest window-smashings in the context of a period of peace and quiet and lawfulness in the capital city. The incidents certainly represent aberrations from contemporary expectations of placid normality in Port of Spain.
People working and doing business in the capital can hardly avoid recalling horrific events of arson, looting and widespread devastation of the physical environment, that everyone hopes belong in the city's colourful past. The Red House, permanent home of the Parliament, had been burnt down during the Water Riots of 1903, and extensively damaged during the 1990 attempted coup.
Fresh in memory, the handful of glass-front breakings, which of course attract headlines, carry potential to encourage copycat behaviour by persons with mentalities equally distorted. But the relatively calm and balanced approach signalled by DOMA should ensure against undue panic and fear.
It is a response that confirms the determination of business and other interests to keep Port of Spain safe and secure.
Meanwhile, the identification of such attacks with disturbed or homeless people, or both with free-range licence to roam and even rampage in the capital, itself sends a message of urgency. Public lack of intolerance of, and even active sympathy for, vagrancy may well have undermined determination by the authorities to take necessary steps to keep the city clean.
The glass-façade breakings now call for a different level of attention to those left to wander about the streets, relieving themselves and resting wherever the opportunity allows. In all this lies a more pointed reason for the urgency of need to keep the downtown free from the depredations of unfortunates who, for medical, social, economic, and other reasons, may not be able to help themselves, or control themselves.
As yet, as DOMA demonstrates, no cause arises for panic, but the smashing outbreak still cannot be ignored. Anarchy does not, and will never, reign in Port of Spain, so long as responsible business and other interests determine otherwise, by precept and by example.