What can politicians possibly talk about and agree on that would make a change in the pattern of rising violent crime and a general state of lawlessness in our country?
The agenda for tomorrow's meeting between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar must, of necessity, address this basic question.
If they are to be honest, the two leaders must begin by confessing openly to each other about their organisations' respective failures on this issue. They must admit that it has not mattered the political party in power, the genesis of the current descent into the cesspool of outrageous violence and criminality predates their own occupation of office, with successive administrations spanning decades woefully deficient in addressing diagnosed afflictions and the ways to address them.
For tomorrow's meeting to be successful such a pitiable concession must be made. There is little else to assess the relevance of the two main political organisations than their inability over time to offer up viable ways out of the current rot.
The leaders must also be prepared to confess to the fact that benchmarks for monitoring trends in criminal behaviour are not measurable in five-year tranches and that when they stand in parliament to cite the statistics, they are being absolutely disingenuous in suggesting concomitant connections between changes in violent criminality and political administrations.
The political parties have all consorted with known criminal elements. People associated with the insurgency of 1990 have been a recognisable presence in the campaigns of both the People's National Movement and the United National Congress. This is not rumour and speculation. The candidates' rolls alone, carefully examined, will get you to the truth about this. But even this does not prove the assertion that the two main political parties are integral parts of the wider criminal enterprise as so often suggested by their leaders and consequently argued vigorously by sycophantic surrogates.
Ask the real experts and they will tell you that the continuum along which the current phase resides did not begin in either 2010 or 2015. So, stop it. Please.
The leaders must also stop suggesting that the way to address law-breaking is by imposing new laws and/or more draconian penalties. It must begin to occur to them that it might well be that the current situation actually requires fewer laws and less stringent penalties based on an empirical approach to the effect of punishment on behaviour. It is not true, to cite one example, that outside of satisfying the primal impulse to extract revenge, the death penalty has had a positive impact on the incidence of murders in countries that have cared to apply critical analysis to the subject.
The drive to decriminalise possession and use of marijuana in regulated quantities is an eminently sensible example of how this principle can also be applied. In my view, though it is an issue that is global in scope, this ought to also apply to the other so-called "hard drugs." The "war" on drugs is unwinnable, based on the evidence and has caused more harm than good. Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is about to learn this the tragically hard way.
It has also not been useful that successive political administrations have both wittingly and unwittingly, innocently and mischievously, undermined important institutions designed to mitigate the impact of the changing social dynamics–the root causes–that contribute toward the easy resort to violence and crime.
Politicians are, for example, best advised to keep their grimy hands off the judiciary. It has been absolutely shameful over the years to listen to the annual pleas of chief justices for more resources to ease the burden of debilitating neglect.
This is particularly so at the level of the magistracy. Dear leaders, do not constantly refer to the construction of new facilities without reference to everything else that has contributed toward chronic administrative lethargy and, with it, an absence of justice. In this, the legal profession must accept its share of blame both on the bench and at the bar.
It has not helped as well, dear political leaders, that the hustings have so often and easily imposed themselves upon the business of the Law Association. The most recent farce was but one extreme example.
Finally, I think it is time to admit the failure of the police service to meet the demands of changed circumstances. The real problems are not compensation to killed or injured police officers and their families and not the method used to employ a police commissioner, as important as that is, but the adoption of an approach to policing based on more modern systems for detecting crimes and prosecuting criminals. Don't ask me. Ask the experts.
No police commissioner or police spokesperson or politician is also going to lecture me on anything called "progress" or "gains" with a murder detection rate of less than 9 per cent. Leaders on both sides of the political fence must confess to this area of failure and repent. Put the following on tomorrow's agenda and recite it: "I shall not claim progress in fighting crime while the murder detection rate, together with a sluggish judicial system, means that in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2016 someone is more likely than not to get away with murder."
I know. I know. All wishful thinking. At the next political rally somebody is going to stand and say that X party or Y party is at work with the criminal elements. That "somebody (we know) making the cocaine pass." That somebody is going to use the murder rate of 30 per 100,000 citizens as a measure of the number of days in office of the current administration. That somebody deliberately opened the shorelines for the inflow of people, guns and drugs.
Let the lighting conditions be favourable for tomorrow's delightful photo-op, dear leaders.