There are at least two often mocked and reviled institutions that come to the fore each time Caribbean societies face the annual challenges of our geography.
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Dance of the footeaters
Even here where we sip hypocrisy like a slow cocktail and dotishness seems to be a major requisite for office holders, where brutality to children, women and hardback men is par for the course, the imbroglio over the murder of Japanese pan player Asami Nagakiya reveals an appalling institutionalised ignorance and insensitivity, even the baddest and maddest should hang their heads in shame for. It’s true that Tim Kee has walked but one gets the impression that he did so at sword tip, along a pirate’s plank.
Initially, damage control from the top down was the usual, too little too late. This one can’t comment because he’s not fully apprised of either the content or context of the former mayor’s original statement —quite a staggering admission of incompetence (which might be read by some as indifference) from someone whose job title is Minister of Communications.
As the only Government spokesman dealing with the press and then as minister presumably with responsibility for keeping abreast of national events, particularly murders with potentially damaging international repercussions, Minister Cuffie was caught wrong-footed in the attempt to defuse the gathering storm unleashed by a public official, who unaware he’d just swallowed one foot, promptly shot himself in the other.
The Prime Minister’s attempts at backpedalling on his original position that there were no grounds for dismissing Sport-of-Pain’s outrageously inept mayor demonstrated a woeful lack of being in touch with where the country is at, compounded by bureaucratic negligence at best, incompetence at worst.
What successive administrations, regardless of political affiliation, seem blind and deaf to, is that on a very basic level, things are not working: from Immigration to National Security, to the education system and on and on. It is inexcusable that crucial information is not supplied in a timely fashion to those whose elected duty is to serve and protect the interests of the national community, both at home and abroad.
If we leave the obvious lack of real political will to shake up our moribund system and get it functioning aside for the moment, we could focus on some of the issues this tragedy forces us to reflect on. Sadly, I can see that Asami’s murder will go the way of so many unsolved crimes and if we’re our usual ten-day wonder selves, it will join the stack gathering dust, as we gape at the latest outrage.
Which of course logically brings us back to our dysfunctional state—prisoners on remand indefinitely for years, while lawyers gobble down exorbitant fees; cases stalled for so long both defendants and witnesses die, police who lose evidence or in some cases abscond with it. But these are other stories.
The Asami case bleakly highlights the ignorance and brutality which no longer simmer below the surface but erupt daily in what is supposedly one of the happiest countries in the world; well you know what they say —ignorance is bliss.
The fact that Asami was murdered at the climax of our national festival, when “All ah we is one” (although bottle pelting, cutlass chopping and shot still calling), seems to have escaped comment. But let’s focus on Asami’s murder and the way it is now being “investigated” (feverishly and assiduously, leaving no stone unturned—I believe are the usual hollow clichés).
Can we look for the same alacrity and thoroughness brought to bear on Dana Seetahal’s assassination? Probably.
For an international audience and potential visitors, Asami’s murder means that Trinidad is a dangerous, possibly life-threatening destination and that Carnival can be fatal. Resignation or no resignation Tim Kee’s comments will further alienate potential LGBT visitors. Of course, this is just what we need at this time of belt tightening, when the diversification we’ve been chatting about since 1986 is still empty chat and the possibility of developing tourism has now taken yet another nose dive.
Despite his overdue resignation the former mayor’s unconsidered knee-jerk response has already added insult to injury. At best it could have been read as a blundering attempt to shift blame from murderer to victim or at worst, as a misogynistic, sexist, self-righteous, brutally callous and totally unaware statement, aimed at evading responsibility.
But then the mayor, whose subsequent retraction was as dishonourable as his original statement, was merely voicing what passes in the minds of many here and which has become as acceptable as the rape of babies, abuse of children, women, the elderly, homeless, disabled and poor.
Asami wasn’t murdered because she was wining in a bikini, as though she was disrespecting the hypocrisy which passes for morality in a country whose culture she loved and supported. However, she was murdered because T&T has become a killing field, where abuse at many levels is the norm, compounded by gross ignorance and negligence.
Instead of distancing ourselves from the murder by whatever dishonourable means, we all stand guilty and complicit.