THE ISSUE of threats directed at high-ranking politicians, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, may have emerged on political platforms, but that is no reason to trivialise the matter. The police must be allowed to do their job and to treat with all credible threats against our government officials, of whatever vintage, as the law requires.
The usual political wrangling has ensued since PNM officials chose the forum of a post-budget rally at Piggott’s Corner in Belmont last Friday to raise, yet again, the alarm. But has it not occurred to all of the politicians, Government and Opposition, that they are sending the wrong signals to an electorate that, daily, worries about crime and violence?
We need to stop and take a moment to consider the trauma experienced by citizens who have lived through threats of violence and how they might be affected by the current discourse.
At the same time, the seriousness of the matter should not be underestimated. These are threats directed at our democratically-elected leaders and representatives – people who serve at the highest levels. Such threats are a direct assault on the rule of law, the Constitution, our political system and our values as a whole and can in no way be tolerated.
Death threats directed at politicians are not new. In a divided era, if there is anything Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar share it is the fact that both are on record as having been subject to assassination plots at one stage or another. In fact, it seems all the occupants of Whitehall have, from Patrick Manning to Basdeo Panday. Historians will note the first prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, was famously weary of attempts to curtail his life, to the extent of being suspicious of food.
It is easy for a cynical population – weary of the nebulous threat of violence posed by high levels of crime, economic uncertainties that have driven some to suicide, and challenges in the health sector where ongoing systemic problems are literally matters of life and death – to regard all such reports as ruses. But at the end of the day, what the ubiquitous nature of death threats reveals is the incredible sacrifice made by the people who have the courage to step forward to serve as leaders in this country.
Let us not forget the lessons of history. Rowley has pointed to Selwyn Richardson, but he could also point to fellow Tobagonian ANR Robinson, an elected prime minister who was held hostage and shot in the leg in the very chamber over which his government was meant to preside. That outrage, as well as the findings which suggested some degree of anticipation of the events of 1990 by the intelligence services, should underline why all reports of this nature cannot be flippantly ignored. Let the police do their work.