Monday, October 24, 2005

In the face of a massive outpouring of concern about the crime situation on Saturday, with thousands of people gathering around placards, music and theatre to demonstrate the need for more effective action, the PNM was able to issue one clear directive and that was to its party members, ordering them not to attend.

Chairman of the committee organising the march, Stephen Cadiz described the no-show as contempt for citizens and an insult to the nation, but it was, more likely, another indicator of the haplessness of the ruling party when faced with problems outside the traditional boundaries of politics.

The problems of crime in Trinidad and Tobago aren't being faced decisively because there is little in the machinery of political representation to prepare those elected to high office to handle the outpouring of violence, anger and lawlessness that has characterised crime in the country over the last five years.

-- From today's Guardian editorial (their archiving system is annoying. Read the editorial here today, here from tomorrow), which also refers to the results of the UWI/ANSA McAl Psychological Research Centre poll published in yesterday's edition. Asked whether the government's crime-fighting measures were "having any serious effect on crime", 90% of the respondents said no. 54% said Martin Joseph should resign. But 52% said there was no one else in the PNM administration they thought could do a better job with national security, & 19% said they didn't know. Just 2% said Patrick Manning himself would do any better. By any fair standard, these numbers add up to a damning vote of no confidence in the Manning administration's ability to deal with the security crisis, & give the lie to claims that Saturday's marchers were not representative of Trinidad & Tobago as a whole.

The Guardian editorial concludes:

It's time that this government left the safe perch of continuous planning to execute a strategy to manage crime that the public can understand, endorse and engage.

A lucid, stringent and clearly-articulated plan to limit opportunities for unlawful activity is unlikely to win friends and votes in a country that so dearly loves its freedoms, but the alternative is a slow and steady loss of confidence in the capacity to lead that now registers the Government's management at a nadir in public perception even as it continues to drop.

"A lucid, stringent and clearly-articulated plan" "that the public can understand, endorse and engage"--exactly. But I disagree with the Guardian's implication that such a strategy need curtail our "freedoms". We don't need a curfew, draconian new legislation, or the suspension of habeas corpus (as permitted during a state of emergency by the constitution). We need to have our existing laws properly enforced. We need for our elected officials and members of the security services to do their jobs faithfully & efficiently. And we need for ordinary citizens to stop putting up with the minor infringements--littering, petty vandalism, unsafe driving--that help create an atmosphere in which major infringements like murder, kidnapping, & theft thrive & breed. Above all, we need for the current government to take responsibility for its failures. But when Mr. Manning, a day after the "death march", describes Martin Joseph as "one of the best Ministers of National Security ever in Trinidad and Tobago" (as quoted in this Express article), it's utterly clear that taking responsibility is the last thing on his mind.

He promise the fire next time, he promise the fire next time....

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