Satyacharya Pundit Dr Bramanand Rambachan said East Indians are under siege by criminals, and Pundit Satyanand Maharaj said the perpetrators of these crimes are urban youth from the East-West Corridor.
The pundits were two of five religious leaders who gathered at the Madeo Mini Plaza in Aranguez on Wednesday, site of the murder of businessman Cheval Ramjattan, to call on the government to do more in the fight against crime.
In introducing Rambachan, Maharaj said “All the crime we have been facing in Aranguez is being committed by the urban youth, the miscreants who occupy the East-West Corridor, who feel that what you have belongs to them, and I say that boldly. Criminals seem to think Aranguez people have money, but this is generational wealth. We, the citizens ,are denied guns, we have no right to shoot back, so we are picked off one by one.
“They are products of a failed education system, of failed parenting, of a state that has thrown up its hands and said now that you’ve fallen through the cracks, it’s OK, stay there. They emerge post-pubescent to terrorise because they’re looking for a little change to give their mother who has 14 and 15 children to mind. Jail is a university for them where they get to network with bigger criminals.”
In his statement, Rambachan said in the last few months home invasions, attacks on business houses, on people leaving the banks and walking the streets have left Trinidad and Tobago in a state of public emergency.
“These crimes have been directed predominantly at East Indians. The potential for civil strife looms large because people sooner or later are going to defend themselves. Many East Indian communities are beginning to take action as a reaction to the inaction of the authorities. Vigilante justice must not be the response.”
Rambachan said he has a proposal which he would be presenting to the PM and the Police Commissioner by next week. He said citizens must reject the public display of inaction and fighting between the government and the opposition.
“The only thing that will change the course and direction of crime is if the government supports the clergy and allows us to take our pulpits out of the mosques, masjids, and churches and supports us with the police service to allow us to go into the communities and rebuild the spiritual values, spirituality, and community, through the younger generation. I want the government to sanction this initiative. This is the only way we will succeed. If any community wants us, we will come.”
Asked if he thought that the leaders would be accepted in communities after making such statements, Maharaj said, “Racism in TT is one of the best-kept open secrets. There is nothing I could say that would make that more so.
"It is hard for media to digest and print when the pundit says the East Indian community is under attack, because a portion of the society is shielded from blame traditionally. These are miscreants who don’t have respect for life.”
A member of the community interrupted Maharaj to say he should speak the truth and not place the blame on any one ethnicity.
“I’m a person active in crime-solving in this community. Stop bringing politics into this. You can’t say is only one set of people doing the crime, because it have people in here bringing in people to do the crime. So when you blame one ethnic colour, you’re talking nonsense and being racist, and we’re not here for that.”
Pundit Jairam Seeram prayed that leaders would be able to rule righteously and people remember the innate higher being in their fellow man.
Head of the Imam Council Imam Kazim Ali said religious institutions need to do more to take care of the poor, the needy and the destitute in their communities. He said all crime must be addressed, be it murder, incestuous relationships, rape, home invasions or violence in schools.
Imam Imtiaz Ali said the solution to crime was to rebuild the family, as there were too many single-parent families. He said denominational schools had been an integral part of protecting the nation but were now under attack by the authorities.
Pundit Umadatt Maharaj said he grew up in Aranguez and the community had changed, so that people were now strangers to each other and scared of each other.
“A major reason we have a lack of belief is a lack of attendance in religious places, be it the temple, church, or mosque. Every single man of the cloth has indicated there’s a drop in attendance in religious places.
"We need to inculcate young people in particular to return to places of religion. These will be pockets of resistance to these evil times.”