Watching out for gifts
Last Friday evening, the ‘lime’ was not up to its customary size neither was there the normal hyped, end-of-week, celebratory mood.
With pannist, Alan Cardinal providing melodious renditions of “kaiso” and “pop” in the background, conversation at Martin’s Piano Bar on Woodford Street, Port of Spain did maintain its normal stimulating content, however.
The focus drifted from politics and the actors of the day to the recent “killing spree” in East Port of Spain. Then the question jumped out: “How long are we going to continue this way?”
It was rhetorical, but, in the tone, one could have sensed many things, one of which was the painful conclusion that somewhere we, as a people, are seen as breaking our Covenant with the Almighty. From that interpretation, one could have sensed, even in a Friday evening lime, an agonising cry for help, a search for not personal salvation, but for our society.
“Do you really realise where we have reached? Criminals are now ejecting the poor, the most vulnerable people from their homes!” the follow up came, in anguish.
The sting in the questions resonated further, with arrival of author Earl Lovelace. His stay, brief but long enough for his contribution: “At this point, we have to change everything. We can’t continue to talk about the legacy of Crown Colony government. Now is not the time for small changes, but serious, radical changes in how we govern ourselves”.
Lovelace had to leave, before he could be more detailed, but my mind turned immediately to the conclusions reached during the meeting between the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition.
All the announced anti-crime initiatives appeared so tired: another, “new” system for the selection of Police Commissioner; more police officers, more cars, morale-boosters for officers; another review of the witness protection system, etc.
Then, the solutions of the Ministry of Tertiary Education trite, as expected; it announced another roll-out of “band-aids”, some dull, unimaginative social programmes for residents of East Port of Spain.
All these were supposed to be the PM’s solution package in response to the gang-related “killing spree”, and the detention of over 100 persons, then the almost immediate release of about 50 per cent of them.
Faced with this urban crisis, her Government stands clueless. I believe its stasis was demonstrated best in the headlines carried on Wednesday in another newspaper. The lead story on Page 3 read: “Moonilal: AG looking at tougher anti-gang laws”; the Page 5 lead was headlined: “AG: Nothing’s wrong with anti-gang law”.
The Attorney-General, to his credit, stated the problem was law enforcement. That view was shared, in part, by former minister, Subhas Panday who maintained that the failure of the police “smells of corruption and incompetence”. He cited the fact lamentably that a 300-man Police search party in downtown could not find “not even a caps gun”.
Interestingly, in the Middle Ages crime was not believed to be a social problem, but a phenomenon caused by the devil. The church today says that it is the absence of religion, in our lives, that causes widespread crime and delinquency.
Parent Teacher Associations are quick to add the Education Ministry, the schools and the teachers to that list.
Others say it is unemployment, drugs, the neglect of the social environment, and the resulting slums, squalor and decay that cause crime. Thanks to Freud, our interest in the psyche has led to a better understanding that therein contains the source of man’s problem.
Whatever the point of view, crime in East Port of Spain has to be seen not in geographical isolation, but as a Trinbago problem, a condition being inflicted on our collective selves. It is every one’s problem.
This point came to be as I returned home. On late-night television, the PM was outlining — quite airily — her Government’s plans to hand over homes and lands to some 8,000 ex-Caroni 1975 Ltd workers, and some 3,400 squatters, because they had been neglected, giving her usual line, by that cruel, discriminatory PNM government.
She said although the workers had received their severance pay and gratuities, they were promised homes and agricultural lands, and her Government intended to fulfill that promise, before its term ends.
Watching the PM on television was another one of the moments that I concluded, “She just doesn’t get it”. I asked myself: “How can one exist in such a flimsy bubble? Crime is a cancerous beast not confined to black people in the inner city; it is metastasising, in Felicity, Chaguanas, Penal, while the PM and her ‘cabal’ fiddle away”.
Last year, her Government gave us Section 34, as an Independence Day gift. I will celebrate this Friday into Saturday — but with anxiety about this year’s real gift.
• Keith Subero, a former
Express news editor, has
since followed a career in