Criminals who have been threatening large scale slaughter of police officers got strong push back from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday, in his first public comment on the fiery protests on the outskirts of Port-of-Spain.
In direct response to voice messages released by gangsters in recent days warning of a bloodbath, his declaration to them was that it "is a war you will not win."
After two days of upheavals in parts of the capital and environs, Dr Rowley's statement came amid an uneasy calm. His stance was firmness in the face of the threats, as well as assurances to the young people caught up in the rage over last weekend's police-involved killing.
Even as he made the distinction between justice and the revenge being demanded by the protestors, Dr Rowley also acknowledged the monumental hurdles of treating with communities "awash with firearms" and the stark reality of "five dead people, a number of grieving families, and a bruised nation looking to the future, hoping that this would be a thing of the past."
Whether his words will resonate with those who most need to hear them will become clear over the next few days. However, if Dr Rowley seriously wants to see an end to "mob behaviour" from the angry young people who lit fires and staged protests over thee days, there must be a long-term plan to respond to their cries.
These are people familiar with joblessness, living in areas where deadly shootouts are regular occurrences. Many of them have lost loved ones to gun violence, or are close to someone who has experienced that trauma. These are facts that must guide the policies and programmes to be developed in the coming months.
There is also another critical matter. Dr Rowley disagrees that the issues of race, religion and geography are major factors behind the unrest, although these are matters that are hard to ignore, particularly the latter.
The location of these areas at the gateways into the nation's capital is part of the reason why they are so regularly flashpoints for disturbances involving the blocking of traffic on the major roadways into the city.
Fixing these communities is critical for peace, security and order across the country, so the Community Recovery Programme must be carefully planned and executed to make a difference.
Getting the residents to stand down on their quest for revenge and trust that justice will be delivered is another major hurdle. Building a relationship of trust between them and the T&T Police Service (TTPS) will be hard. There have been too many violent confrontations, too much spilling of blood, for a straight path to healing and reconciliation.
As Dr Rowley stated, the onus is on the police "to win and preserve the trust of the population, otherwise policing will be difficult." That transformation must begin with and be led by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
If all these pieces are made to fit together and work, there will be brighter days for T&T's troubled communities.