Sunday, December 29, 2002

Both Kirk Meighoo in today's Express & Dana Seetahal in the Guardian (this link is good only until next Sunday, because the Guardian still has no permanent online archive) consider the possible consequences of Patrick Manning's recent meeting with Laventille-Morvant criminal gang leaders (a.k.a. "community leaders"), as part of his (terminally deluded) anti-crime strategy. This kind of semi-secret dealing, Seetahal argues, gives the gangsters a dangerous political legitimacy. PNM & UNC governments in the past have made this same mistake with the Jamaat al-Muslimeen, to the point where Abu Bakr apparently sees himself as some kind of kingmaker, threatening the populace in an attempt to sway voters during T&T's last general election campaign.

More alarmingly, Meighoo suggests that such tacit alliances with gang leaders are the first steps on what he calls "the road to Jamaica":

"We are witnessing an embryonic development of Jamaican-style politics, in which 'dons', drug lords, and other criminals are essential parts of the state and political party system....

"However, though it is commonly acknowledged that the major political parties and MPs are allied with these 'dons' and 'top-rankings', it is not usually said in that way. These elements are referred to as 'community leaders' or 'political activists'....

"In our politics, thuggery has not become politicised as in Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, or Grenada in the 1970s.

"The forging of a relationship between our Prime Minister and certain dons — regardless of the intent — seems to further open the possibility."

Meanwhile, Manning is yet to explain the nature of his meeting with these "community leaders", & Laventille MPs Fitzgerald Hinds & Eulalie James — who one would expect to have strong opinions on the matter — remain silent.

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