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Unite and lobby for real change

Sunday, October 4, 2015
Ira Mathur

I would like to think the surge of murders since the September election is a coincidence, that various governments don’t need to strike a deal with criminals who seem to have an unending supply of homemade and imported guns and access to drugs. When a country’s psyche is based on dependence, decadence (Carnival), low literacy, low sustainable employment, and Massa day done (poor or no work ethic), and is also a transshipment point for drugs, you have an explosive on your hands. It would be hypocritical of us to be “shocked”. We are seeing all the ingredients going into crime.

A friend was telling me about a conversation he overheard on the tube in London recently. A woman was pointing to a man and said dramatically to her friend sitting opposite her, “My husband has murdered five people.” Even in a city where people pretend that everyone else is invisible on a crowded tube, people’s heads turned. The woman went on, enjoying the attention. “Oh, he didn’t kill them exactly. You see, he is a train driver. He ran over people who threw themselves on the tracks. After the first suicide when my husband felt the thwak over the body and helped pull out the mutilated body, he had to take six months off work. But in time he got used to it. Most recently, he had to take off only two days. He’s getting used to it.”

That’s us. We are getting used to it. The spike in murders is disappointing but not shocking. But we would be foolish to carry on as if it was business as usual without pushing the police and Government to do their job—social and policing, protecting witnesses, protecting our borders from drugs, seizing guns, detecting and prosecuting murderers. (‘Hang them high’ never works.)

But now, the shock is being replaced increasingly by a sense of menace and fear. This is an extract from a news report: “An amateur produced rap video made by members of the 'Muslim City' gang in Enterprise, Chaguanas, is popular online. In the video, the person heard rapping speaks of carrying out violent acts on 'Rasta City' gang members from the Enterprise area. Also shown in the video are images of high-powered rifles and ammunition. 

“For residents of Enterprise, their fears have mounted following this spate of shootings and the release of the rap video. CNews visited the area on Monday and found many business places closed. Shop owners say the closure is due to a drop in sales, as a result of the ongoing gang violence and shootings in the area. The Imam of the Crown Trace Masjid, Morland Moakil Lynch, is calling for peace and urgent intervention by the authorities. 

“They are more scared. Some might move out. They are getting scared because those who doing business in Enterprise, business slow down, salesmen not coming, the vans not coming so that means things will get worse. Imam Lynich believes that the ‘war’, as being described by residents of Enterprise, will not end anytime soon.”

I felt a chill when I read on. This is a symptom not an aberration. What happens if the fear spreads area by area in Trinidad unchecked?

“Nothing is done on either side. Both sides not looking for peace and the police in the centre not doing nothing because if I shoot a man and I not getting lock up, I continue shooting. Nobody investigating nothing and the investigation very slow.” 

The issue of young people gaining access to illegal guns is very worrying for the Imam. “As far as I understand, I seeing like they don't have nothing to prevent the guns from coming, and once you don’t have nothing to prevent the guns coming from the hands of those monsters, then crime will continue. Residents in the area say there are shootings on a regular basis and this is making life unbearable.”

We have ushered in the new government with new hope. This means we have to shed our old jaded selves, the selves that expect murders, that routinely call our loved ones when they are on the road and heave, relieved when they have returned safe from a night out.

We can’t be defeated and hope that the Government strikes a deal with the criminals. Equally, we can’t throw our hands up in the air and say, “can’t do nothing about that,” so we may as well look forward to Christmas.

Our country is disintegrating from piecemeal. We may think that “Enterprise” is far; but the Enterprise situation where businesses are too frightened to open, where boys with guns who don’t care about their lives (or any one else’s) are coming to a neighbourhood near you no matter where you live.

In this tiny twin island, we have more non governmental organisations possibly than anywhere in the Caribbean. They are doing the Government’s work, of the fallout from the unstoppable influx of guns. They are taking care of orphaned children, of children whose fathers are in jail, of children whose mothers are on drugs. 

They are trying to create small oases in trouble spots of sports fields, and centres for abandoned children. Perhaps it’s time all the NGOs unite, come together and say we are doing the Government’s work. We are dealing with the symptoms of the problem that is partially societal but also very much the Government’s responsibility. It is in the Government’s power, and in the power of the armed forces to bring about change.

Time to unite and lobby for real change. Government serves the people. Not the other way around. Now the people should actively but peacefully say it as it is: the Government, armed forces and judiciary are failing us. We want peace in our country and we want to see action towards it. Now.


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