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Trinidad and Tobago Unrest

Trinidad & Tobago: A cry of desperation

Clevon Raphael, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian  Jun 11, 2009

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago - “Kill him! Kill him! They distressing people!” I would be surprised if National Security Minister Martin Joseph was “emotionally hit” by this desperate cry from fed up and frustrated citizen over the rampaging bands of armed robbers and murderers roaming the land. Not to mention Prime Minister Patrick Manning who is too busy presiding over the construction of massive structures in this crumbling state to take cognizance of the daily hell law-abiding people are being put through by these bold-faced criminals.

Remember who said that the deaths of innocent citizens at the hands the gunmen were simply collateral damage? This same statement forced a Jamaican Government minister to apologize to his people last week. The above “appeal” came from a man who witnessed one of the regular incidents where gun-toting bandits are being featured in murders and robberies which often end in the hapless victims being dispatched prematurely to their Maker. In this instance last Saturday, estate police officers attached to the CarSearch outfit engaged armed car thieves in the vicinity of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, which has had more than its fair share of violent incidents, with students being the victims.

A shootout occurred between the officers and the bandits and one of the miscreants was held with an automatic weapon. A crowd gathered and while the suspect was being held down, the man voiced his frustration at the escalating crime and blurted out his “death wish.” I am sure we all remember in the past the almost universal outrage after someone was killed by the police in the course of their duties. Almost the whole community became incensed and the police were severely criticized and accused of abusing their power.

Today there is hardly a peep from citizens when a police killing occurs. We want blood. It is a case of “them” against “us.” I used to be extremely upset and found all manner of excuses to justify the criminals’ anti-social behavior, including the usual suspects—poverty, single-parent homes, etc.

Not so today. And one can easily empathize with that witness’s need for vigilante justice. And if you need any supporting argument, it is simply this Ggovernment’s lack of, or at least reasonable, success in controlling these lawless people. I have asked over and over: what would it take for the national community to rise up and let this Government know that enough is too much where this crime scenario is concerned? And I have said over and over again that we are absolutely fed up and bewildered over this increasing lack of security at home and elsewhere, and that we are prime sitting ducks with the criminals toting heavy weapons and we citizens not even having a “caps” gun to protect ourselves.

Unfortunately, the population cannot depend on the police—a large number of them at least—to be always there to protect us from the deadly hands of the lawless elements. That a man can openly call for the summary execution of a suspect tells us the extent of our hapless state, the bewilderment, the hopeless position we have reached in this apparent losing fight against the criminals. While we are being attacked left, right, centre and from behind, the Government is pumping a huge amount of resources into this battle but as everyone knows the results are not anywhere near what we would like them to be, and one wonders if the police are sufficiently motivated to go the distance. Quite recently I visited a so-called model police station and witnessed something that was indeed an eye-opener.

It was about 7 pm on a Saturday, and while seated in the waiting room for about half an hour while my matter was being dealt with, a WPC was pacing in and out the building in an agitated state.

Talking to no one in particular as she moved up and down, the WPC was saying she wanted to go home, having worked almost three days on one shift. Angry over not being relieved at that time, she openly declared: “This is not fair to me. I am here since Thursday. I want to go home to my children...”

A second WPC suffering the same fate, pleaded with a policeman:
“All you, I cannot take this no longer, I will go mad...I want to go home…I have a family.” What was heart-wrenching was that these two women police were oblivious as to who was in the waiting room; police or civilian, it did not matter. They were stressed out and felt taken advantaged of. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them and wondered how many more were getting that kind of pressure in the Police Service, and how it was impacting on their ability to serve and protect us with pride. And how was it affecting their overall performance.

Trinidad & Tobago: A cry of desperation
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