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Waiting for the anti-crime plan to fly
The word “pressure” was not on the lips of anyone on the Government side at yesterday’s House of Representatives session. In fact the atmosphere prior to the start was quite light-hearted with PNM MP Marlene McDonald chatting merrily with PP MPs and others exchanging greetings with their PNM counterparts.
But the full import and weightiness of the situation engaging both sides—and indeed T&T overall—was conveyed much later in the session in National Security Minister Jack Warner’s statement on the precepting of soldiers and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s subsequent address on the Flying Squad matter, now in the hands of the Police Commissioner to probe.
It remains to be seen how successfully the former will fly and what truths will emerge from the latter. For Warner, it’s been (another) challenging week. Berated by irate, grieving Sea Lots residents from PNM-controlled Port-of-Spain South. His office besieged by the protesting MSJ. Roasted at the Opposition’s public meeting on Tuesday. And hearing that the crime situation is prompting his one-time associate, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, to link up with a governance watchdog group.
By yesterday, Warner’s smallest worry might have been that Nicki Minaj (she of the extremely colourful lyrics) erroneously thinks T&T “is like Liberia.” The expected “steups!” which Warner might have in response to that will probably be echoed by all T&T. However, the spike in crime—as the PM has referred to it—threatens to skewer Warner’s image along with the PP’s stocks.
On Thursday, the PM shouldered the responsibility for her Goverment’s positions, representing its collective face in paying respects at the funeral as crash victims Haydee Paul add her daughters. The grief of the Sea Lots situation may in a sense have epitomised the feeling pervading the national landscape following the crime upsurge.
If the Government feels it has been put on the spot to do for Sea Lots what the past PNM administrations didn’t do —heed residents’ calls for a walk over—it may be in a similar position with the crime problem. Saying she came to mourn, the PM’s grave expression on Thursday may have also reflected the sentiment which most countrywide may share as the direct and indirect effects of the situation make themselves felt. Daily.
In the midst of a community many regard as a crime “hot spot,” Persad-Bissessar on Thursday would have received a first-hand take on how her administration is regarded from its stiffest critics. It would have been the latest barometer following the PP’s January 21 defeat in Tobago by the Opposition PNM; indeed even some of PP’s staunchest devotees have in recent days appealed directly to her to “put a hand” concerning the crime situation .
The need for all sides to act —and quickly, for national, rather than political reasons—has been recognised as evidenced by statements from the Opposition as well as Warner yesterday.
Hopefully, that will be concretised (beyond rhetoric) in days ahead in ways the public can tangibly recognise. And genuinely, since the Opposition has mixed its message with a certain amount of opinion that Government can hardly make a dent in the crime situation in the last two years of its term and has “failed,” as speakers at Tuesday’s PNM meeting pronounced.
The roll out of the military police security plan will therefore have to be water-tight effective enough to restore haemorrhaging public confidence and its snowballing effects on business. Apart from awaiting answers on the alleged Flying Squad revival—for which clarity is needed ASAP due to the varied reports in the public domain—the PM is still to address PNM leader Keith Rowley’s allegation that she contacted a senior Special Branch officer in 2010.
This has raised concerns about political inteference with police, an area the UNC once regularly chastised the former PNM Government for. On the public plain meantime, T&T watches with hope—despite still, some apprehension for what the next statistic may be.
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