IMAGINE the scene along the Beetham Highway during ordinary rush-hour traffic on a busy Tuesday morning. Motorists, many of them accompanied by families, sit in their cars as they slowly make their way in the usual traffic jam into the capital for another workday.
Now imagine this scene as a car suddenly stops, three masked men jump out, gun in hand, rush to a vehicle on the roadway and open fire on the occupants, then gingerly make it back to their vehicle which ploughs its way through the traffic, rips against the sides of cars, and crashes into shocked commuters. And imagine the pure chaos, moments before, when the occupants of that car fired upon their target, bullets flying indiscriminately, everyone in harm’s way.
Frighteningly, these are not scenes from a movie. This is the real thing, horrifying, not in Hollywood, but Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, so much so, because of what we have become, that many have been treating the incident as routine. The nation has become numb. Yet, the entire community was exposed on Tuesday morning.
The attack on the car carrying Dwayne King endangered not only his life and the life of his passenger but it also placed families and residents along that stretch of road at extreme risk. With an escalation of armed security around King extending to the wards of the Port of Spain General Hospital, it also generated indirect risks.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and divisional heads of the Police Service and its various arms must act decisively on this. The perpetrators must be brought to justice, the bloodshed contained and effective measures implemented to prevent a recurrence.
Luckily, the number of people who were injured was limited, but the trauma caused by this incident cannot be overstated. Nor can the disruption to our transport system on a national, not just local, level. People as far as Chaguanas complained.
The time has come for us to realise that the threat posed by criminal elements, be they gangsters or opportunists, is a threat to the rule of law and the stability of our nation. An attack in the middle of rush hour in broad daylight bears the hallmarks of the kind of terrorist activity we have seen on other shores, whether truck drivers in Nice, France, or in Lower Manhattan, USA. Our response should reflect the gravity of the situation.
It is disconcerting criminals could think to strike so brazenly and escape. It is also disconcerting they actually managed to do so. The identity of the apparent target has provoked discussion over possible motives and once more raised the spectre of an all-out gang war. This, at a time when the State quietly marked a milestone this week with the first arrests under the revamped Anti-Gang Act. Four men charged will reappear in court next month.
However, as Tuesday’s incident demonstrates, it will take more than a few charges to make a meaningful impact.