Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This Government really needs somebody to help them explain to the public their aims and objectives for or on any particular issue ... especially when there are so many thorny issues that need explaining. In the Twenty-First century it is a sine qua non that governments should be open and transparent, at least if they aspire to be democratic. It is also important to keep reminding this Government that they were elected (inter alia) on a promise of just that, i.e., openness and transparency. And it is important that we keep on pointing out that they are failing miserably in being open and transparent on a host of important issues.

I raise this now because I am concerned at the lack of a cohesive message coming from the Government concerning the State of Emergency (SoE), what are the aims and goals that the Government has, for what I have previously called "the end game" strategy. As I have said before, I personally can't see "the end game" strategy, which is, of course, a far different thing from saying that such a strategy does not exist. But in looking at what has happened over the last month in the country and in also reading (or trying to at any rate) everything that both the proponents and the critics of the SoE have had to say, I have come to certain tentative conclusions which I will readily admit are not necessarily accurate. Still, persons with whom I have discussed them with agree that they make some sense. It is in this light that I seek to share them with you.

First of all, it is unreasonable to expect that the SoE will mean the complete or virtual elimination of serious crime. It won't and it can't. The "bad boys" will get out of jail sooner or later and they will try to return to their evil ways. And the police will have to be prepared to deal with that when it happens ... as it most certainly will.

However, what we can all hope for and reasonably expect is that the imposition of the SoE and the seizures of arms and ammunition has been (will be) such that this combination seriously dents the various criminal enterprises being carried on by the various criminal gangs. In other words, it is going to be difficult for the gangs to get back up to their previous levels of murderous activity. Anything that makes life difficult for the criminals has to be a good thing.

Secondly, there has been a lot of criticism that "Mr. Big" has not yet been caught. This criticism is really as unrealistic as it is unfair. Let's examine a few facts:
(1) Something like 98 per cent of the gang activity (murders, armed robbery, etc.)
is being committed by gangs coming out of what you might call the "original
hotspots" like Laventille and the Beetham. It happens that most of the people
in these areas are African ... which is why most of those arrested/detained so
far have been black.
(2) These gangs are not the importers of the guns. It is reasonable to assume
(though I will readily confess that I have absolutely no evidence to back this up)
that the importers of the arms and ammunition come from Central and South. I
say this because I believe that most of the smuggling of guns and drugs come in
through fishing boats operated by "fishermen" in Central and South. Now,
assuming that this is correct then it is also quite probable that most of these
gun importers are Indian. Again, I say this because the majority of East Indians
live in Central and South. It is also reasonable to assume that these are the "Mr
Bigs" that everybody keeps talking about.
(3) The problem for the authorities is that without some sort of evidence it is going
to be difficult, if not impossible to get any kind of evidence against the gun
importers. Think about it. If you were a gang leader and I was your supplier of
guns and ammunition I would be the last person that you would "sell out".
There are two obvious reasons for this: First of all, if you sold me out you would
be cutting off your future supply, and secondly, if you sold me out I would
probably kill you and/or your family. Think about it!

In other words, the authorities ain't gonna catch "Mr. Big" any time soon. They will catch a few "big" gang leaders, but those guys at the top of the pyramid will continue to walk the streets of T&T! Sad, but true! The authorities therefore are probably better off doing just what they have been doing ... attacking the "market" that the "Mr. Bigs" have been supplying their products to in an effort to destroy or seriusly damge the trade.

Some politicians have foolishly been trying to play the race card in order to bolster their standing with certain elements of the electorate. This is as stupid as it is dangerous and should be condemned by all right thinking people. But that is not the point of this particular post.

The point is that we ought to understand that regardless of what some might be saying, that the bench marks for success in this SoE have to be a lot lower than what we might be being led to believe. Therefore, the bench marks for success have to be:
(a) That when the SoE is removed although we can expect
(regretably) some escalation again in criminal activity, that such
activity is considerably less than what was pertaining before the SoE
was declared;
(b) That the intelligence/information gathered by the police during this
SoE is such that the police will now be in a position to force the
continued downward spiral of serious crime in this little country of

Put another way, we should be very realistic as to what is and what is not achievable. Speaking for myself, I believe that what I have said above is achievable and realistic. I, for one, will be satisfied if this is indeed what is achieved. What do you think? What are your benchmarks for judging the success of the SoE?

Monday, September 5, 2011


To say that the contributions of the PNM Opposition in the State of Emergency (SoE) debate in Parliament over the weekend were pithy and uninspiring is to put it mildly. The primary purpose of an Opposition in a democratic Parliament is to present achievable alternatives for or to a particular problem. Instead of coming to the Parliament with real ideas and proposals just about every Opposition speaker from Keith Rowley to Amery Browne (and everybody in between) simply attacked the Government with criticisms that on occasion were overtly racist in both tone and content and provided absolutely no alternatives to the present imbroglio.

As readers of this blog will have noted, I am one of those who is most concerned about the end result. I too have said (and continue to say) that there has to be a well thought out strategy to be able to take the country up over and out. But, I have made it clear (or tried to at any rate) that I cautiously support the Government in this SoE and that I am dearly hoping that they do in fact succeed. The fact that I can't discern an 'end game' strategy does not mean that there isn't one. And no, I personally do not have at this time any 'end game' solutions. So, we should all just sit and wait ... at least for a while. Put another way, I am prepared to give the Government a chance to make things right. Heck! it is in my/our interests that they do make things right.

But life has to go on, and one of the most important events of the year is just around the corner ... and that is the presentation of the annual budget. No thinking person in the country cannot help but be concerned. We have seen the TT dollar over the last 15 or so months slip from about TT$6.30 to US$1.00 down to about TT$6.47 to US$1.00! And the Minister of Finance has behaved as if this is no big thing and of no great concern to him. In talking to persons who should know they tell me that the main reason for this 'slippage' is because wealthy Trinidadians are taking their money out ... in other words, they do not have confidence in the Government's overall ability to manage the economy and they are betting on a continuing slide or devaluation.

Now, I have spoken with several Government Ministers and other spokesmen who assure me that the budget will change things radically for the better and that we are going to see fairly soon some big projects that will turn on the flow of dollars once more ... indeed, the Prime Minister herself spoke in Parliament over the weekend of a huge $40 billion project that is about to be launched for Invaders Bay. But these big projects have to start coming on stream now ... and 'now' means now!!

What also needs to happen is for the Minister of Finance to start to tell the country what his plans are in advance of the budget. People need hope that things will get better. One of the ways of giving them that hope is to explain to the population how you are planning things to make their lives better and what exactly you are planning. We need to see the plans and be able to understand them. We need to have an idea of when things are likely to start turning around. And we need to understand why you think that it will take the time that you say. Or, as I have said before: Explain! Explain!! Explain!!!