I don’t know how many of us remember this, but the People’s Partnership came to power on a platform that campaigned against escalating crime and criminal activity. Both white collar and violent crime. If my recollection serves me well Prakash Ramadhar and Vernon de Lima were in the vanguard, acquiring birth certificates all the way from Malaysia to establish links between Calder Hart and Sunway Construction, and thus confirm for us that there were sinister links between the two. While my suspicions are that such may well be the case, there is no evidential material, beyond Sherrine Hart’s birth paper to substantiate anything, and so the party that once frothed at the mouth and chomped at the bit for Calder Hart, and by proxy, Patrick Manning’s head, have gone all but silent on Hart and white collar crime in general. Just look at the outcome of the extradition case for Galbaransingh and Ferguson or the imaginary inroads we are making into money laundering and drugs. Indeed, if we were to sit and examine their real actions where illegal activities are concerned, we’d understand what this government’s plan for our security really is.
Trinidad is a transshipment point between Latin America and North America. Let’s embrace that and move on. You’d think therefore that manning our borders, especially the ones that provide ease of access to the mainland would be a key priority under any regime. You’d also think that aerial surveillance would complement maritime border patrol. Well, under this government you’d be absolutely wrong. Because early initiatives by this government stopped the purchase of offshore patrol vessels, sold the ever controversial blimp and to date the air guard seems to be stalled. At least I don’t hear about them being a part of any crime initiative.
The appointment of the lady formerly known as Reshmi Ramnarine was yet another stage in the country’s crime plan. Get your friends to watch your back I expect. But it told me clearly that this government wasn’t remotely interested in securing the country, but is entirely interested in promoting and protecting themselves and their friends.
The appointment of Dwaynne Gibbs and Jack Ewatski as CoP and Deputy CoP respectively also seems to have helped secure this government’s ridiculous and untenable position when it comes to crime. Because of the contracts this government has signed with both men, it seems almost impossible to get rid of them lest the state face another law suit. And therein lies the rub. There is clear underperformance from Gibbs, Ewatski and the police force that the top men should be held accountable for but we can’t make them answer for anything or call for their heads the way we could a local CoP. Gibbs’s breached state laws when he spent $.9m on renting a crop duster. It appears that the probe into that has stalled and with the change in National Security Minister I seriously doubt that we’ll ever get any resolution. Further, the nation has never been told exactly how this light air craft was meant to fit into a larger crime plan. What we do know is that Jack Ewatski likes to fly. So my guess is that when the fecal matter hit the fan in January of this year, the efficient thing to do was claim the aircraft was being considered for national security purposes.
I’m also thinking too that the phrase “sting operation” must be a foreign word to Canadian crime officials. Consider how many busts you hear of where it’s only the drugs and ammunition that are seized, but never the owners. On an island as small as ours, where it’s less than six degrees of separation, there is apparently no way to figure who owns containers with frozen chicken and marijuana, or gun caches or marijuana fields. Everything owns itself here.
But perhaps the biggest blow to national insecurity has been the appointment of Jack Warner. A man with allegations of corruption hanging over his head, whose first act in his new ministry was to breach laws. It’s pretty clear in my mind that Warner had no authority to issue orders to the Chief of Defence Staff, because he’s not the commander of the Defence Force, the President is; and Max Richards has been suspiciously mum on Warner’s role in the Highway Re-Route demolition. Further, it’s the responsibility of the state land agencies here to issue eviction notices. Personnel in Lands and Surveys will tell you that it is virtually impossible to use force to evict squatters off land here. Yet Minister Warner was able to deploy both police and army, and unless my eyes have gone bad, we’ve got pictures in the public domain of soldiers, not police officers, arresting Kublalsingh. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj must be doing cartwheels. But this has me wondering what exactly is going through the heads of our defence and crime detection personnel here when they start breaking their own rules under the directives of politicians. Surely CDS Maharaj knows better. Surely the soldiers on that demolition site knew better as well. So then why flout the laws? Using soldiers to quell a protest implies that the protesters are a threat to the state. So if citizens of the country are a threat to the country’s security, did we have a coup a few weeks ago? Is it that Warner, in his first act as MoNS, quelled an uprising? Or did he take advantage of a group of villagers and environmentalists? And why is that highway so crucial that a show of force was necessary?
Warner’s apparent abuse of state laws isn’t the first time the state, or rather this government, has turned against the state. Let’s not ignore the 2011 State of Emergency. To date we have received multiple reasons for its calling. A clear and present danger from Columbia, then from imaginary diesel bunkers in the Beetham, then twice Robocop was bold enough to want to assassinate the Prime Minister. In fact, Robocop was so silly that the first time he was caught with pictures of the PM, the AG and a few other ministers with their faces crossed off. Who wrote this script, Michael Bay? The second time around, to make their selected villains appear more heinous they made them literate. Brand new copies of Sun Tzu’s Art of War featured in the police raids. The entire assassination plot, felt like a poorly conceptualised, cliched Hollywood movie.
In fact, the more I think about our security policies and crime initiatives to date, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not just a really bad piece of slapstick we’re caught in. Friends are hired to run high powered agencies like the SSA and FIU, air and ocean surveillance are non-existent, the top cops are accountable to no one, men with checkered reputations responsible for our security , and the guns and drugs got here on their own steam. The difference for us though is Hollywood movies have happy endings.