On crime, let past be past

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB

THE PRIME Minister’s letter states succinctly what should be the motivating force behind the proposed crime talks between himself and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

“In keeping with our mutual desire to put our country’s national interest first, I invite you, as Leader of the Opposition, to participate in the following exercise which is aimed at exploring the options,” Dr Rowley wrote in his opening despatch on anti-crime talks on Saturday.

Ms Persad-Bissessar has long stated her willingness to do precisely that and to work with the Government on crime and the UNC has already gone so far as to begin to outline the composition of their intended delegation.

But, of course, we have been here before. And after years of animosity, nobody expects a kumbaya moment.

The Opposition has wasted no time in criticising what it deems the failure of the Government to implement past suggestions, as well as to change the leadership of key posts.

The population, meanwhile, is rightly sceptical in a situation in which both sides have everything to gain by these talks faltering: the Government can continue to blame the Opposition for crime, the Opposition can continue to blame the Government. In this game of cat and mouse, all parties lose, however, and none more so than ordinary citizens left to fend for themselves.

But none of this should be allowed to derail the current momentum. And this fresh effort, though commenced on the eve of a key trip abroad for the PM, differs substantially from previous ones due to a radically altered context.

The first key shift is the fact of the recording of the all-time highest murder rate in this country last year.

Despite efforts by the police to put on a brave face and to focus on the positive in its parsing of statistics for the current year, the Government is clearly still concerned enough to act as it has.

That it has done so after the bitter exchanges of the local government election, which proved its hold on power more tenuous than it would desire, is notable.

Stakeholders have been calling for all parties to work together, in the manner suggested by recent Caricom-level anti-crime talks. Those talks and their outcomes have provided a useful model for what should be happening at home.

We hope the current initiatives bear fruit and that they go beyond the usual legislative interventions.

We need to step away from the “us versus them” mentality in political representation. The divisions in our politics, seeded during colonial times, need to be bridged for us to move forward. On crime, we must truly leave the past behind.

The upcoming budget debate will be the first test of how far this new era of co-operation extends.


"On crime, let past be past"

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