Sunday 21st September, 2008

Martin George
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click, click, click

Some of us would remember the good old days of Globe Cinema or Strand, where you would have attendants walking around with a counter trying to get an estimate of attendance, and they would be pressing the small counter in their hands, click, click, click, as they tallied the numbers.

Well, we all need to walk around with counters like that here in T&T to keep a track of the murder toll, click, click, click.

It must be obvious to all and sundry by now, that we are going to shoot past 400 before the end of the year and set record heights for the murder toll of 2008, as the Ministry of National Insecurity sits and looks on in helplessness, seemingly without a clue as to what to do, as the numbers climb, click, click, click.

Bodies fall

We have got to the point where it is no longer sensational or front-page news, where murders are pushed to Pages 5 or 6 in the newspapers, and there is an unspoken official edict about not talking about it and just pretending it isn’t happening.

So we go about our daily business as the bodies fall around us, and we sidestep them in the pages of the newspaper, turning quickly to the sports or comic sections to blank out the horror of it all from our minds, as the murders continue, click, click, click.

Businessmen and some law-abiding citizens who may wish to obtain firearm licences to obtain weapons to defend themselves are put through an interminable waiting period, sometimes only to be denied in the end, and while, of course, the Police Commissioner has the right and power to approve or reject such applications, the problem is that while the grass is growing, the cow is starving, so while your application for a licence could be pending, you could be shot and killed while lawfully attending to your business at your business place, shot by killers who may come to rob, rape or pillage, click, click, click.

School children, church and community groups and old people walk about in the blazing sun, tired feet marching in procession, chanting, singing and praying their little hearts out, with placards, banners and standards, marching and rallying against crime, in the vain and foolish hope that the criminals are somehow listening and repenting and turning away from their evil ways.

Safety mechanism

The reality is much more likely that they are at home by their mother’s house sleeping, waiting to get up to eat and clean the Glock or Smith and Wesson, check the chamber, the barrel, the firing pin, the safety mechanism, as they prepare to go out again for their night’s work, click, click, click.

The sirens wail incessantly as emergency crews race from one scene to another. The Police Service, overburdened, outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and understaffed, is largely reduced to a cadre of body counters, arriving at the scene after the fact in full force, with lights flashing and horns and sirens blaring, instantly moving to lock down the area and everybody escapes, except the dead body lying on the ground.

Nobody saw anything; nobody knows anything, and nobody is talking to the police, so the only person the police manage to hold and detain is the victim lying dead on the ground—one more for the body count, click, click, click.

The trade unions vow to shut down the country with some measure of support from the business communities in central and south Trinidad, in protest against, inter alia, the rising crime rate, and the event occurs and passes over like no more than the tiniest ripple on the ocean’s surface, lost and forgotten no sooner than it began, as the nation remains unmoved, numbed, jaded, struck dumb as a sheep before its shearer, just waiting for the next blow to fall and the body count to increase, click, click, click.

We are proud to witness the burgeoning Port-of-Spain skyline, with steel and glass towers dotting the waterfront as we march forward trying to achieve our goal of developed nation status, but on the pavements below, in the mean streets of the city, we see a growing trend of brazen daylight robberies and murders, on the Promenade, on George Street, on Henry Street, on Frederick Street.

So, as the glass panels above are fixed, slotted and clicked into place on the shiny new buildings, click, click, click, there is an accompanying sound from the streets below as the trigger is pressed and the hammer draws back, ready to strike the firing pin, click, click, click.

Where does this lead us; where does it leave us? How do we even begin to solve these problems? How many more crime consultations, crime commissions and crime seminars do we need to host before we get down to the business and brass tacks of dealing with this runaway crime situation?

Do we have the moral, spiritual and political will to do what is necessary to begin to tackle these issues, or are we all going to continue to bury our heads in the sand with our butts stuck up in the air, just waiting for that inevitable moment when it eventually hits too close to home with that chilling sound of finality, click, click, click?

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