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The gun to our heads

Published: 
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

So, my GP for more than half my life is moving out of an office he has occupied in east Trinidad for over 30 years and is devoting all his professional time to patients at his facility in the west. “Abandoning the East-West Corridor proletariat?” was my cheeky question last Tuesday.

Medical doctors have a way of lowering their heads and looking at you from above the upper rim of their glasses.

There was a sadness I had never seen in the eyes that appeared from behind the glare of thick lenses. “Have you ever had a gun aimed at your head?”

The following day, a relative was posting on social media about the disappearance of equipment being used to prepare her new home. Then, to keep things rolling last Thursday, Beetham Highway became a crime scene somewhat reminiscent of March 23, 2015—albeit at the hands of different players.

In the midst of it all, a thread of despair kept turning up everywhere like a pervasive spider’s web.

“The guns,” my friend Elizabeth Solomon declared, “are pointing at all of us.” To me, this question raises at least two additional challenges: Whose (metaphorical) guns? And, once we have determined who “we” are: What do we do about this?

Prime Minister Keith Rowley appeared to have his finger on some important elements of the puzzle when he spoke on Friday, following an intemperate outburst the day before.

Some opposition wags, increasingly inclined to gloat over misfortune, held on to Thursday’s blunder even after the PM went on to present his take on one important element of the task before the entire country—that of the universal nature of personal responsibility.

It was an important intervention against the backdrop of the perception that application of the rod of criminal correction is viewed as being uneven across social divides. However insufficient the analysis, it was a significant observation.

However, by his own admission at the press conference, the prime minister had yet to consult meaningfully with senior security officials on a specific course of action to deal with still smouldering remains on the Beetham Highway.

It is important in such matters not to approximate what Canadian journalist, Andrew Nikiforuk, derides in a recent column as the increasingly popular, and deceptive, political creed of “deliverology.”

I am not good at MBA gobbledygook so I do not pretend to understand everything I have read on the matter, except that it sounds like an excellent strategy to promote a notion of accountability even as little can be expected to be eventually delivered.

Last Sunday, I also listened to what Jamaica PM, Andrew Holness, had to offer at his JLP congress. We always seem to trail Jamaica when it comes to such matters—on both the good and the bad points. (By the way, Holness also wants to outlaw all corporal punishment).

He conceded that the heavy-handedness of state security in the past had not only earned negative global attention, but had also not sufficiently addressed the problem of inner city violence and crime.

Holness held out greater hope for the island’s experiment with Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) which, he claimed, had already started yielding results.

The enabling legislation is worth a read, since it addresses serious human rights concerns invoked at the time of our ill-advised and bungled state of national emergency in 2011—“deliverology.”

Another important initiative in Jamaica, which I am certain has been raised here more than once, is the planned introduction of a comprehensive National Identification System (NIDS).

Though quite (and understandably) controversial, a database built on information acquired through the NIDS system can provide law enforcement with a sound start in the pursuit of sensible policing.

Holness prescribed three key applications—the law, intelligence and citizen co-operation.

A few weeks ago, I reprised the late Lloyd Best’s admonition to apply “educated common sense” to our problems of the day. Between the anguish and fear, leadership here requires such a quality at this time.

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