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Cadiz: Death March was not about politics
Seven years ago, thousands of people flooded the streets of Port-of-Spain for what was known as the Death March. Tuesday marked the seventh anniversary of the march. The march had its genesis in the death of Keith Noel, who was chopped to death at his home in Belmont on May 26, 2005.
At the time the murder figure stood at 136. For that year, the country recorded 386 murders. The murder figure so far this year stands at 328. Noel’s employer, Stephen Cadiz—now tourism minister—together with relatives and friends, formed the Keith Noel 136 Committee. Cadiz collected more than 100,000 signatures, which were presented to President George Maxwell Richards.
An employee of Tropical Power, a Chaguanas-based company, Noel managed to cry out to a neighbour, but his attackers fled. Police said as Noel struggled with his assailants, he was chopped across the mouth and body. His murder remains unsolved.
The march attracted people from all walks of life, age, ethnicity and religions as they took a stand in the face of the spiralling crime rate, demanding that the PNM administration implement new anti-crime measures. Vividly remembering the day of the march, Cadiz said yesterday it was a time when society felt “enough was enough” and people got together to voice their disgust and disenchantment with the PNM Government.
Cadiz also dismissed claims that the march was a platform for him to be catapulted into the political arena. “It was never anything about politics. We were not playing politics. It was a time when everyone united because they were fed up with the crime situation and they wanted positive changes but the Government at the time was just remaining silent,” Cadiz said.
He said although it had been in office just two and a half years, the People’s Partnership Government had already made many inroads in the fight against crime, highlighted by the community meetings chaired by National Security Minister Jack Warner, which aimed at fostering closer relations between the police and citizens.
Cadiz has also thrown his weight behind acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, who he said he has supported from day one. Admitting that citizens would like to witness an immediate reduction in crime and enjoy a greater sense of safety, Cadiz said fighting crime was an old problem.
“This administration is very transparent, and without a doubt it has owned up to the fact in dealing with crime. “I know the population would like to see an immediate fix to the crime problem and the Government is working on that. I know Mr Warner’s plans will bear fruit,” Cadiz said.
However, he remained saddened by Noel death and the fact that like many it had remained unsolved. “We have to work to solve not just Keith Noel’s murder, but the hundreds as well.” One of the thousands who participated in the march was Kirk Waithe, chairman of the watchdog .organisation Fixin’ T&T. Asked if he felt safer today than seven years ago Waithe said, “Absolutely not. I do not think our crime situation has improved.
“That is not an indictment exclusively on this government, but on previous administrations as well. “I think citizens need to wake up and play an active role in where we want and ought to take our country.” He added if this included marching, it should be done within the ambit of the law.
Saying the country’s democracy was also threatened, given the recent Section 34 fiasco, Waithe added, “We also have to address in earnest our illiteracy problem, which continues to be a major contributor to our crime situation.” Popular groups and artists also voiced their dissatisfaction during the march seven years ago, including Wendell Manwarren of 3 Canal.
Contacted on Tuesday, Manwarren said the crime situation had changed, but for the worse. “It has intensified. But I don’t know if holding another march would be the answer,” Manwarren said. He described the crime problem as multi-faceted and complex and urged that Government tackle the social issues. “We must not give up,” he added.
Head of Arrive Alive, Sharon Inglefield, who was also in the march, urged a reduction in the road fatalities. Arrive Alive is a non-governmental organisation which raises awareness about death and injury caused by reckless driving. “We absolutely believe that if we fix our roads we fix our country. To fix our roads we need to have legislation in place, like speed-management laws, as well as an elite traffic-management unit to enforce our laws,” Inglefield said.
She said the road fatality figure stood at 153 to date, an increase of three per cent over the same period last year. “Political will is required to create good behaviour on our nation’s roads,” she said.
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