Sunday, November 13, 2005

One of my recent worries has been that this sudden burst of football frenzy--& the national delirium that would be triggered by a victory over Bahrain on Wednesday coming--could distract vital public attention from the urgent matters of crime, governance, & political accountability that have engaged Trinidad & Tobago these past weeks. (As Georgia put it in a phone conversation yesterday, this could become the rug things get swept under.)

Today's Guardian, however, keeps up the scrutiny, with a fairly detailed report on last week's crime debate in the House of Representatives, including a substantial excerpt from national security minister Martin Joseph's rather trite contribution (not online, it seems); an analysis of the debate by Judy Raymond (none of these are permalinks; good for a week); & Lennox Grant on the feeling of anxiety that currently prevails in Port of Spain, & on the public's perception of Abu Bakr ("the revolution in sensibility is yet to come").

Perhaps most valuably, Anand Ramlogan examines Bakr's arrest on Wednesday (on charges of sedition) in the context of his shady political alliances over the last fifteen years:

On the eve of the last general election, Prime Minister Patrick Manning addressed the nation and announced that he was going to give the Jamaat a large parcel of state land for free....

Both Panday and Manning had warmly embraced Abu Bakr. His influence on both parties was clear. He wasn’t simply tolerated; he was treated with deference.

He featured prominently at the celebrations held at Balisier House when the results of the last general election were announced. There he was, consorting and cavorting with persons who would control and rule our nation for the next five years.

Joan Yuille-Williams reportedly had secret meetings at her office with Bakr. He was always given the red carpet treatment, it was reported.

Franklin Khan defended his decision to give him a VIP priority pass to access the PBR, because he was "a religious leader."

Bakr took control of acres of state lands in the hills of Valencia and started illegally quarrying. EMA officials were chased away by menacing gun-toting men in full Muslimeen garb who terrorised legitimate quarry operators whose pleas for security fell on deaf ears.

None of this is news, of course--we all know, on or off the record, that both the PNM & the UNC have compromised themselves with Bakr, when it suited them, for short-term political gain. We've all heard stories about voter intimidation & "protection" rackets, & we've all seen how Bakr has been trying for years to position himself as some kind of "statesman" or power-broker--when the truth is, as most of us know, that he is a thug & a bully, & his continuing presence on the public stage is one of the most destabilising factors in the history of Trinidad & Tobago in the last fifteen years. Both major political parties, & far too many other people who should know better, have contributed to "legitimising" the man's megalomania. Everyone who has appeared with him on a public platform or treated with him as with a community leader, every media outlet--I have one particular radio station in mind--that has uncritically allowed him to broadcast his lies, is deeply complicit in this country's current state of guerilla civil war between our inept constitutional government & the dangerously efficient gang government of the streets--of which Bakr is unofficial figurehead.

That's why his arrest on Wednesday & the bulldozer raid on Jamaat headquarters on Thursday are simultaneously satisfying & alarming. "About time they got him," we think, but also "what are they starting up now?" Because--though my language may seem hyperbolic--we see this as another tactical move in the ongoing war. And how far can we trust a government that has already compromised itself with The Enemy? Or an opposition that has done the same? And we know that the battlefield of this war has been the daily lives & homes & safety & well-being of ordinary citizens. And we wonder how many more casualties we will have to suffer.

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