THE MURDER of Andrea Bharatt has triggered grief, trauma and anger, some of which has been channelled into candlelight vigils and protests. But it has also provoked a debate about the appropriate bounds of politics when it comes to crime.
While some would have us believe it is not a political issue, crime is perhaps the ultimate political issue in our country.
There is no doubt security should be a non-partisan matter. What is a state for if not to protect and uphold the right to life? In exchange for limits to our freedoms, John Locke famously argued, a state has a duty to do all that it can to protect the governed.
This cannot be a matter tempered by partiality: crime is no respecter of political party, race or creed. It is, as tragically shown by Ms Bharatt’s case, a matter of life and death.
But it is understandable why people like David Abdulah, the political leader of the Movement for Social Justice, has called on the Government and the Opposition “to stop the cheap politicking” on crime and get on with it.
It is also understandable why the Prime Minister, who used his office to urge members of the public to come forward with information, saw no inconsistency in also saying he had ruled out attending Ms Bharatt’s funeral because that would have been seen as an attempt to “politicise” the nation’s sorrow.
But some have gone further. Instead of seeing an outpouring of frustration, some have preferred to see “crocodile tears;” instead of noting the wide cross-section of people who have raised their voice, they have zoned in on the presence of political actors leading crowds. They have demonised and dismissed the vigils outright.
The truth is, all citizens, whatever their party, are entitled to hold politicians (governments, governments-in-waiting) to account on crime. In this sense, the maintenance of the rule of law is inherently political. Familiarity with the ebbs and flows of the tenures of prime ministers over the decades bears this out.
Dr Eric Williams invented the National Security Council primarily as a response to the unrest of 1970. ANR Robinson’s defiance of intelligence warnings arguably played a role in the way the insurrection of 1990 unfolded.
Despite an array of scandals, it was ultimately crime that came to most haunt Patrick Manning’s tenure, given the record murder rate he presided over.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s term was marked by the declaration of a state of emergency after a murder spike, a move which was unpopular and which divided the nation along political lines.
It is strange, therefore, to silence critics by saying crime should not be politicised – when it is the one issue guaranteed to be of concern to voters at the next election.