Jamille Broome writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
It seems that since 1990, Trinidad and Tobago has been under siege by criminals, but now more so than ever.
Citizens have been the main hostages of this rampant criminality, but in recent weeks, we have also seen how prison officers have had to make themselves hostages in their own homes as criminals, for whatever reasons, seem to be picking them off one-by-one.
It is a scary reality in which we all live; one which I’m sure many of us wish was only a nightmare that will all be forgotten when the alarm-clock sounds.
If the last decade of chaos was not enough, last Thursday we got a foreboding of much worse to come.
And Friday’s Newsday front-page headline got it right; without a doubt, it was Beetham Badness.
Contrary to what some Beetham Gardens residents would like society to believe, that act of terrorism was not only aimed at engendering consciousness of their economic and social plight; it was mostly a display of pure badness in loyalty to two of their own. Regardless, whether or not you were unfortunate enough to get caught in the melee, all of TT was under siege for a very scary few hours by a very small minority.
I say small minority, but this ignored community was able to intimidate a population of 1.3 million and compel the police to release their arrested leaders without charge.
An entire country pleading for the Belmont father who lost his son to floodwaters after he left his two children home to go to work, could not get the TTPS to be lenient, but 100 Beetham terrorists did so with WhatsApp voice notes and rocks.
What comes next is anyone’s guess, but if it is anything like what happened when the United States pressured Jamaica to extradite Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, it will only get much worse.
One cannot help but draw a parallel between the events of Beetham last week to the Shower Posse gang and the wider Tivoli Gardens community in Kingston who rose up like an army to protect Dudus following his arrest in 2010 – 60 residents gave their lives in an attempt to protect their endeared community leader.
Maybe some of you believed that the government and armed services were in charge and in control, but maybe now you know better because, last week, we saw the power that “community leaders” have in this country.
And it is no mere trifling power when an entire community throws all its support behind these individuals.
Everybody is concerned about the “what,” which is the undying support for these men, but nobody cares about the “why”: why do these people put their lives on the line for these thugs? It’s simple and it is because when many Beetham residents are unable to earn enough money to live and to provide for their children, it’s these individuals who support them.
So how can we sit on the side-lines judging their actions without first understanding how they got to that point.
The responsibility for removing society’s feeling of being “under siege” is ultimately the government’s, but the successive administrations have all ignored the underlying cause of criminality on the Beetham and we will continue to be at the mercy of these criminals who continue to have us under siege while holding the citizenry to ransom.
In many of my previous columns, I have repeatedly warned of measuring our success as a country by evaluating the way we treat with society’s most disadvantaged group of people – and unfortunately, changing the name of a place that was once called Rat Town to Beetham Gardens is not enough. But no one cares; they aren’t light skinned, their hair isn’t straight and their address is not in a gated community.
So, how do we reverse this feeling of our society being “under siege,” well may I suggest a national day of prayer or maybe an anti-crime march through the streets of Port of Spain... always works like a charm!