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DON’T FIDDLE WHILE ROME BURNS

The trinidad Guardian / “MAYHEM”, screamed the Guardian headline on Friday as four more brutal murders were reported and more cases of people gone missing. Earlier in the week a schoolboy was found murdered. The murder toll had by Friday already reached 112 for the year, with no signs of easing up or of any improvements in detection, convictions and punishment.

It is no longer safe to go out anywhere, and even staying indoors at home is no guarantee of personal safety. Our country is bleeding. The family member of a recently murdered young mother begged people to look out for one another to avoid the fate of the young woman—is there any other barometer to show us as a failed state when the people have to fend for themselves and cannot rely upon the State apparatus for their safety?

The measures which the Attorney General brought to Parliament are unlikely to make any dent in crime, certainly not anytime in the near future. The legislation to give accused people the option to elect trial by judge alone is useless as it is accepted that the option will never be exercised and the legislation to do away with preliminary inquiries (wrongly in my view) and to give the DPP and not a judicial officer the power to commit people to stand trial will not ease the bottleneck in the system. The focus must be on the nuts and bolts of detection. The people who are in the system already are not doing the killing.

So instead, the usual hanging red herring. The Prime Minister announced that he firmly believed in the death penalty and that—in a slap to the face of his own AG—he was seeking assistance from a former UNC attorney general, Ramesh Maharaj to ensure that it was implemented. But as has been pointed out, the PM, when in opposition under the UNC government and later the PP government, strongly opposed legislation to ensure the implementation of the death penalty. And no government since the UNC government in 1999 was prepared to do the hard work to avoid the Pratt v Morgan fetter on hanging. In any event, before such as measure is implemented police intelligence, vigilance and detection has to be stepped up.

Our country is in crisis but, more critically, is rudderless because of poor leadership inside and outside of government. Regrettably, it has to be said: The Keith Rowley administration in terms of uplifting the lives of our citizens is no different to—albeit for other reasons—the public relations gimmick that was the People’s Partnership government.

While the PP was all about cult of personality papering over rampant allegations of corruption masquerading as “delivery”, the PNM is sadly inept, devoid of ideas, and severely politically unattractive. Both are unable to fix our country. The feeling across the country is that the 2015 elections made no difference, and like the 2010 result, we all got exchange not change. Distaste for politicians and governments now trumps tribalism; everyone has contempt for and distrust for those that inhabit Parliament.

Look at the TDC debacle: the Tourism and Labour Ministers belatedly met with the CWU to simply reiterate that the shutdown of the TDC is a done deal. So why meet at all? Then the Tourism minister in the Senate droned on about prior “consultation” with everyone except the CWU and the TDC employees before the decision to dissolve the TDC. Ironically, she reminded us that the THA was responsible for tourism in Tobago, yet she still blamed the TDC for the collapse of that sector.

And then there was the revelation that four lawsuits brought by a former AG against the Prime Minister when he was opposition leader and one other against the now Minister of Public Utilities were discontinued with no costs order. Normally when a claimant discontinues a case the defendant gets his costs because he had expended money to defend himself. What’s really going on? Is the population not to infer that deals are being brokered behind the scenes? How does this look in the face of emailgate, prisongate, etc, and the investigation into a former PP official for witness tampering, none of which has come to anything?

Arguably, apart from the Minister of Finance and perhaps the new Minister of Works, no government minister inspires respect for the administration. As murderous crime escalates unchecked, the administration of criminal justice verges on collapse, and the economy continues to fail, the PNM has not provided any solutions or a blueprint for the future. As Kerston Coombs, a respected engineer and Point Lisas expert noted, the Government has been tardy in finding ways to meet the gas shortfall there. It appears that this lethargy has caused the shutdown of two plants so far with more to come as well as further job losses. How can this be in a world with plentiful cheap gas?

It is my hope that whilst on vacation the Prime Minister takes a moment to think about our stressed citizens whose loved ones have been brutally murdered, whose loved ones remain missing, those who are desperately trying to find legitimate ways to look after themselves and their property, and those trying to make a sustainable future on their own. The Government must not fiddle while Rome burns.

Mickela Panday

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