PERPETRATION OF a hoax would best describe the six-year, million-dollar search for a Commissioner of Police (CoP), if one believes the efforts expended by both political parties, the United National Congress and the People’s National Movement, were insincere.
However, in fairness to both parties, now that a CoP has been chosen, we must concede that the search for a CoP was indeed genuine, despite the exorbitant cost and length of the search.
Yet let us insert one important caveat to our concession: the parties’ search for a CoP is perhaps a search for a messiah – a saviour who will eradicate criminal activity from Trinidad and Tobago and return the nation to the peace and tranquillity we once knew and so desperately desire.
If indeed Gary Griffith is deemed the messiah who will bring peace and tranquillity to TT, his efforts as CoP will fare no better (or perhaps be worse) than those of the dedicated, embattled and long suffering acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams for the reasons outlined below.
The search for CoP as messiah is doomed to fail if we continue to identify criminal activity in TT solely as a good-CoP, bad-CoP proposition, when in fact criminal activity in TT is, to a large extent, caused by a culture created by history, institutions and practices, a cultural mindset in urgent need of reform alongside the genuine efforts of a diligent CoP. Let us cite a few examples of this mindset.
On July 29, according to one report, while travelling in a car a heated argument erupted between the driver and passenger Kyesha De Souza, who apparently grabbed the steering wheel causing the car to run off the road. “The enraged driver pulled out a knife and stabbed De Souza several times. Bleeding heavily, she managed to get out of the car and tried to run away but the man chased” and repeatedly stabbed her. (See Woman stabbed to death, Newsday, July 30)
This is the mindset of a butcher slaughtering a pig.
Such a mindset could best be described as pathological in the shooting death of grocery owner Chao Zhia Zhong. Perceived as a “hit,” the gunman shot Zhong in the neck. “As the businessman falls to the ground (floor), the killer shoots him at point blank range in the face.” (See “Grocer gunned down,” Newsday, July 30.)
In the past week, a young woman reported being raped by two of three men posturing as passengers in a taxi. (See “Woman, 18, raped twice,” Newsday, July 30.)
Three weeks earlier, these same individuals reportedly raped another woman.
Needless to say, these acts call for a swift police response. While a single rapist could be described as deviant, however, three rapists in collusion are an anomaly. That is the expression of a mental condition, a criminal mindset without regard for social norms or constraints against society.
As gruesome and shocking as these killing are, they are common occurrences in today’s TT. Thus raising the question: what are the institutions and cultural practices, the forces that have created the mindset of these rapists and pathological killers amongst us?
In times past it was not unusual to hear of robbers who would return bus fare to victims; that mindset has changed. Yesterday’s robber is today’s bandit, who will not only rob but will purposely injure and even kill his victim. This is a pervasive mental condition in today’s TT.
If we are to end this mindset to rape, rob, murder, plunder, break laws whether civil or criminal with impunity, then we must not only identify urgently the forces that are creating this mindset, but we must act to abate if not eliminate those forces while creating new institutions to build discipline, responsibility and respect for the law.
This means the creation and implementation of new policies directed at education, housing, employment, media, judiciary, cultural activities.
The pre-eminent TT scholar, CLR James, recognising the need to change the culture shaped by a history of slavery, indentureship, and colonialism, urged then prime minister Dr Eric Williams to prioritise the creation and implementation of programmes that would change behaviour for the formation of a modern, sophisticated society. Williams declined.
Similarly, Toussaint L’Ouverture perceived the need to retain certain aspects of French culture for the modernising of the liberated Haitian people.
If we fail to acknowledge the imperative for a cultural change, a renaissance, a national transformation in behaviour, we will continue to perpetuate the hoax of a CoP, the messiah who will bring the peace and tranquillity we so desperately desire.