The state of emergency is a "defining moment" for both Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the People's Partnership. So said political scientist Dr Hamid Ghany when asked whether he felt the state of emergency was a "make or break" situation for the Government. He told the Sunday Guardian: "This state of emergency is the defining moment of her (Persad-Bissessar) Prime Ministership and the defining moment of this Government because crime has been the number one issue that has been addressed over the last six or seven years and so, any ability to address the problem-in a manner that brings about a reduction in the fear of crime in the society-would obviously have a high level of political reward."
Ghany alluded, also, to the concerns that members of the Opposition may have "if this thing works" since they may suffer "some political difficulties" as a result, given their lack of support for the state of emergency. He said while one could concur that the former administration (People's National Movement) attempted "to deal with serious crime in the country"-through legislation, the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), the blimp and dialogue with community leaders-it clearly did not reflect "the kind of success that they would have liked." "On the whole, I am supportive of the action
taken. I think that the crime situation had rea ched to the point where people were beginning to question
whether the State had the capacity to deal with this issue.
"I believe that the patience of the public had been tested and that this was the kind of action that was needed to give the State an upper hand in fighting a battle we are perhaps now discovering, is far more widespread (in its reach) than we would have thought," Ghany added. "I think that the state of emergency is a policy option whose time had come," the political analyst said as he alluded to two declined recommendations in 1985 (Scott Drug Report) and 2003 (Ken Gordon Committee) respectively, for the governments of the day to act similarly.
Ghany added: "We have a situation now in 2011 whereby the policy option of a state of emergency
(to address the issue of violent crime in the country) has arisen for a third time and the Prime Minister has accepted that recommendation and has sought to take action in accordance with it." Asked whether he felt the curfew should be extended throughout T&T and not only in those designated hot spots,Ghany said such a decision was "driven by the relevant intelligence available to the National Security Council" and as such, could not offer a comment on a matter to which he was not fully apprised. Foreigners watching us closely Far from having an adverse effect on the nation's tourism and foreign investment,
Ghany hinted that the international community may very well be taking notes on developments being made during the state of emergency.
He said: "I get the sense that other countries, who have serious crime problems, are looking at T&T and viewing it in the context of a developing country using the state of emergency option, as one of the
ways to handle the situation." "I suspect they (developing countries) are watching us to see how we handle the situation and what lessons can be learnt in using such an option," Ghany added.
He said, too, that the "developed countries" would be particularly "supportive of this kind of activity taking place" in T&T since "many of them are affected by the drug trade" and more so, of the possibility that T&T may be "a trans-shipment point." Consequently, "the success of the venture would create a different kind of country that may then make itself more attractive to foreign investment and tourist activity," according to Ghany.
He agreed that while the quantitative measure of success will be based on the State's ability to sustain a reduction in crime levels after the state of emergency has been lifted, there was also "a qualitative methodology" and "the fear of crime index"which needed to be considered and "was difficult
to measure". "This index (fear of crime) is a statistical dimension that is not just based on how many guns and ammunition were found; how many people were captured, charged and convicted; but on
a qualitative assessment of how people feel in their minds with respect to their personal safety and comfort." President should "clear the air" Asked how he viewed the absence of President George Maxwell Richards who is currently on vacation with his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards until October
5-during the state of emergency- Ghany said he "felt a little awkward about that." "The Prime Minister was travelling on official business and made a decision to curtail the period of absence simply to satisfy the requirements of the official business and come back but with the President (Richards) going on
vacation, I don't know if I was 100 per cent comfortable with it.
"I didn't think that having been satisfied that there was the need for a state of emergency, that going on vacation shortly afterwards was the best signal to send," he said. Ghany added that while "the President
could have decided to defer his vacation because of the state of emergency", there might have been circumstances (medical or otherwise) which mitigated his decision and as such, Richards "may want
to clear the air upon his return." "The President can exercise his choice of going on vacation. I don't know
what the commitments were and that's why I'll need to have that caveat over the statement but if we just take what is in the public domain-of it being just vacation-then I think that it could have been handled a little differently.