By Capil Bissoon
The escalation in crime shows no sign of abating; actually, it is getting worse.
Keith Rowley’s contention that his People’s National Movement (PNM) can “turn around” our crime situation lacks credibility if only because of the PNM’s continued facilitation of criminal activity, its abysmal record in dealing with crime, past PNM collusion with criminals, and the fact that Dr Rowley has articulated no plan whatsoever to reduce crime.
Successive PNM administrations helped breed a system of dependency through programmes such as Special Works, DEWD and URP, all of which offered good money for little or no work. It was part of a system of political patronage. What’s worse, the programmes placed no emphasis on the acquisition of marketable skills like welding, plumbing and carpentry. In effect, it became an efficient machine for producing a bank of pliant voters.
The PNM actually consorted with criminals and gang leaders. It is reported they even used the Muslimeen in past general election campaigns.
Between 2002 and 2010 when Patrick Manning demitted office, there were 3,353 murders-an average of 479 a year, with a peak of 550 in 2008. That’s an average of 1.31 murders every day for seven years.
Kidnappings during the same period reached 359 with a peak of 155 in 2007, the year Mr Manning won re-election. Yet Dr Rowley boasts the last PNM administration was able to reduce crime.
By contrast, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration has not only reduced kidnappings to zero, but has reduced the rate of serious crimes by more than 40 per cent.
What is also significant is that statistics show that when the PNM was in office, crime, especially murders, rose exponentially.
Consider these figures. In 1995 (remember, the Basdeo Panday administration began in November 1995) there were 171 murders and, for the first time, kidnappings (29 that year) became a serious issue. The Panday administration was able to steadily reduce murders to an eventual low of 93.
Once Mr Manning, the PNM and Dr Rowley took office, murders and kidnappings increased each year, peaking at 550 murders and 155 kidnappings. That is the record from which the PNM and Dr Rowley cannot escape. Today if the PNM were in power, and based entirely on projections, the annual murder rate would be 700. Do the math.
The PNM record from which Dr Rowley has not distanced himself consists of entertaining gang leaders and rewarding them with lucrative state contracts.
Crime is a PNM problem.
Dr Rowley’s contention that crime continues to be a problem because the present administration dismantled the monitoring system is without basis. The Government dismantled an illegal agency and ended a systematic and illegitimate operation designed to spy on citizens, MPs, journalists and even holders of the highest offices in the land.
Dr Rowley cannot articulate a functional and workable crime plan. He cannot rely solely on criticising the present administration without coming up with a viable and better alternative.
Instead he and his PNM have voted against everything the present Government has taken to Parliament to deal with crime. In spite of the total lack of support, the Government continues to deal with the problem. It has introduced legislation including the Interception of Communication Act (which replaced the illegal spying arrangement); the Firearms (Amendment) Act; the Anti-Gang Act; the Trafficking in Persons Act and the Bail (Amendment) Act.
In addition, there has been an increased presence and visibility of police, CCTV cameras at strategic locations, the introduction of a Rapid-Response Police Unit and a police Highway Patrol.
Despite Dr Rowley’s rantings on the hustings, no one believes the PNM can solve the crime challenges-problems they created and facilitated. Further, they have abdicated any responsibility in the matter.
What is worrisome is that neither Dr Rowley nor Marlene McDonald nor Donna Cox feel they have any responsibility for confronting escalating crime in their constituencies.
Their non-action does not constitute leadership. Isn’t that an abdication of leadership?
If I were an elected PNM MP and crime was a concern in my constituency, I would feel I have a moral obligation to confront it. I would call in the youths. I would dialogue with opinion and other community leaders. I would solicit the support of pastors and recognised leaders in my constituency. I would leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the problem and develop strategies to deal with it.
Not Dr Rowley and the rest of the PNM MPs; bankrupt of ideas, they myopically do not see it as their responsibility.
Their crime plan consists mainly of criticising the Prime Minister day-in, day-out while abdicating any responsibility in the matter and offering no alternative solutions.
Maintaining that the role of the Opposition is merely to oppose is naive, simplistic and Third World thinking.
The Opposition is the alternative government. It is required to provide alternative ideas for taking Trinidad and Tobago forward to developed-country status.
That is why in the British constitution, the Opposition is referred to as Her Majesty’s Alternative Government. It presents alternative ideas and stands ready to implement them once elected.
Not Dr Rowley’s Opposition. He is absolutely and totally a Rottweiler; he barks, he frightens. Full stop.
In his world view, Rottweilers are not required to come up with innovative ideas.
· Capil Bissoon is a Trini-Canadian looking on at T&T politics from a distance