Sunday 24th December, 2006

 
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Kid napping in a manger

At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who as the story goes, was “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.”

The unfortunate reality of life here in T&T, is that our celebration of the Jesus kid, napping in a manger, is marred by the real and actual crime of kidnapping, which has once again reared its ugly head on the landscape of the nation, or as some quite correctly say, might have been locked away for some time, but has never really gone away.

With no word at the time of this writing, on the release or safe return of Vindra Naipaul, to her family and loved ones, it has cast a pall over the Christmas celebrations for many, with people once again speaking of looking to pack up and migrate to what they consider to be safer countries.

No one can imagine the horror, trauma and anguish that families and loved ones have to go through during the horror and ordeal of dealing with a kidnapping and if it is one thing that is surely on the Christmas wish list for the majority of right-thinking individuals in the nation, it is that we will eliminate the scourge of kidnapping for the coming year.

It is something which stresses out, agonises and terrorises the entire nation. You are afraid to go out, you are cautious when you return home, never knowing who is lurking in the dark waiting to pounce on you.

Your social life is affected, your family life is affected, your nerves are frayed and shattered and you become in many cases, a victim of your own hard work and success, to the point where some folks buy old foreign used cars in order to move around incognito.

But these kidnappers are not fooled by this, they usually seem to have their information quite accurate and often seem to be very well organised and efficient running a tight effective unit.

Now it has not all gone the kidnappers’ way and we need not feel as if all hope is lost. It is a fact that there has been a significant reduction in kidnappings for ransom from 58 last year down to about 19 this year.

While this gives us some light at the end of the tunnel, it is certainly not a reason to sit back and relax, because if there have been 19 or 20 kidnappings for this year so far, then that is 19 or 20 too many.

The Bail Bill, which was introduced by the Government, has undoubtedly played its part in helping to stem the tide. And the role which the Opposition played initially, and which the Congress of the People played recently, in ensuring that this legislation came to life—and remained in force—was laudable because it showed that they were willing to put country first before narrow, partisan political agendas.

Glimmer of hope

There is also some glimmer of hope in that the ransom demands are down in that last year, there was a total of $71 million in ransom as opposed to about $18 million demanded this year.

Of this figure, the official records show that only about $400,000 has actually been paid out. As the AKS and Suatt hone their skills and become more adept at dealing with these criminals, they are able to bring more pressure on them and break down their demands but all of this is ex post facto.

The point is that we need to be proactive instead of just being reactive. It surely cannot be that there are thousands and thousands of kidnapping gangs out there. This is not Mexico City or Colombia! It has to be a pretty small cadre of criminals out there who are organising and masterminding these kidnappings!

Who are these people? What do they do on a daily basis? Where are they hiding? Are they really hiding? Or are some of them out in the open where we see them on a daily basis and we just don’t recognise them for who they are?

We have seen with the recent court cases that some of them are hiding among the ranks of the Police Service itself as in the case of the Rishi Permanand kidnapping. How do we guard ourselves against the very guards who are supposed to be guarding us whose motto is “To Protect and Serve?”

How do we guard ourselves against so many of these security guards when so many of the guards are themselves in touch with kidnappers?

It can really present quite a depressing and frightening scenario as you enter your home, castle, abode, palace or manger to lay down your sweet head because kidnappers who bear no goodwill toward men are disrupting peace on this little part of our earth.

But there has been some progress, in the year 2004, there were 28 kidnappings for ransom out of which 27 persons were charged. In 2005, there were 58 kidnappings for ransom out of which some 78 persons were arrested and charged, but clearly there is a whole lot more that needs to be done.

We need to see pre-emptive strikes taking place on the part of the police. We need to see them actively monitoring and targeting the kidnappers the same way the kidnappers monitor and target their victims.

They don’t give up. They are relentless in the pursuit of their victims. The same way we need to have our police stalking and monitoring the known kidnappers and having them under 24-hour surveillance.

Let them start to feel the heat for once. Let them know what it is like to be monitored and watched all the time.

Let them know that we are going to strike first and take them out before they can attack our women and children. Let them know that the fathers, sons and husbands of this nation are no longer going to sit back and wait to be picked off like sitting ducks.

Let them know that for 2007 our strongest hope and desire—and a goal which I am sure the Government will strive to work hard to achieve—is that there should be no more kidnapping in this manger; this cradle of the earth; this beloved land of ours called Trinidad and Tobago.

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