Scorpion Alley is demanding an apology. But some Smith Hill residents are finally getting relief from a daily diet of gunshots. The mixed reviews which the state of emergency has elicited in "hot spot" areas under curfew are no different from those of Scorpion Alley and Smith Hill in Carenage. The two areas of Carenage are atop parallel ridges in the Diego Martin (constituency) hillside. They boast million-dollar views of the western peninsula, highly comparable with, and probably better than, the posh domiciles of their more affluent neighbours in Glencoe and Westmoorings. But the scenic views are where the common situation ends.
Both in the PNM stronghold of Diego Martin West, Scorpion Alley and Smith Hill are depressed pockets where narrow winding roads give way to modest homes tucked precariously into the wooded hillsides.
One part of Smith Hill appears to boast a concrete "waterfall." But it's actually a cascade that results when concrete steps built over a natural gully carry the overflow of water when it rains. It's steep, slippery, dank and mossy. But it's the only way for residents to reach their homes. A recent incident in the areas which ended with protests and tyre-burning is attributed by some residents to gang war.
Scorpion Alley has been fighting a bad reputation in recent times and youths in the area are more Put Out (to put it very mildly) by recent telecasts during the state of emergency about this. At 6 pm on Sunday, Scorpion's boys were hanging out near the Blue Night Club and under the famous tamarind tree.
Dub pumped loudly. A few guys were preparing for a curfew party. Everybody relaxing. It's a place where nobody's going to give you a name in the state of emergency climate. But they want to talk. Police patrols have been "flying" around the spot, they say.
"No army (shake-down) ent come yet...they ent hold nobody for guns or curfew or anything...but we know they coming," muses a 30s-ish guy in a brown jersey. "Single mothers in the area who working casino and restaurants catching hell to work properly now with this curfew. They can't go out, things closing early," he added. Beverley, a small businesswoman said: "It's not like if people come in here and will get kill daily. I can't say if it have guns or not...they might have their little gun shots but up here have no killers. But lack of jobs is the biggest problem. Andy, 22 and his 37-year-old partner hanging near a low stone wall, cups in hand, echo the vexation of Scorpion youths at Ian Alleyne's recently televised visit during curfew.
"Scorpion get an unfair rap...Scorpion probably have its issues, but you can't stain everybody because of talk. Laventille get a better image than Scorpion after that show," "Yeah! Yeah...Yeah," comes a chorus of agreement from other youths. A well-built 30-something guy in blue hoodie, jeans and white sneakers adds, "Scorpion demanding an apology, sister. I working offshore. If I have to get a nex job, I mightn't get it because everybody see Scorpion as a bad place." Well Built added: "I meet a young lady and I tell she where I from, she might run before I get chance to tell her we have good people here. The day after that show, three jeep of police come down here."
A stocky well-spoken 26-year-old, adds "Talk to people, ask about things. Doh come when nobody outside and pronounce death on the area because somebody say ting just so." Nobody that afternoon is interested in hearing PNM MP Keith Rowley's name or former COP candidate Rocky Garcia's. And the same applies across the ridge in Smith Hill where some folks are happy for the state of emergency.
Mr B, 48 says, "I born here. Things began going bad about five years ago. It's about twice daily we hear gun shots." "If the police was policing all the time, this might not have developed. This state of emergency should have been done three years ago."
He added: "I working near Sea Lots. Sometime they find bullet shells on the compound but when I come home I can't rest-till now. They should keep up the state of emergency." His friend Brown-tall with plaits-adds, "This gang thing is more like a style the youths joining. People copy it from America and everybody want to be in fashion. Is an ego thing." We need things to keep youths busy. Once the state of emergency ends, things will lapse back into how it was." A buxom young lady with braids says, "We live as one here, but people come in the area. I could sleep in the night now, no gun shots and dog barking all the time because people around."
Another woman, Mrs W takes issue with the area's treatment by both PNM and COP candidates.
She adds, "The issues we now have, have worsened over the years. We were PNM but went COP, but COP has not gotten back to us. Mr B adds, "We've had a PNM MP almost 18 years. Diego West always had big PNM deputies as MP-O'Halloran, Hugh Francis-yet we never move up. When it going to happen?"