Crime and violence, fear and anger, disenchantment and hopelessness.
Can T&T be truly "fixed?" Can the Police Service win the war against crime? Can there be an end to drinking and driving? Kirk Waithe, president of the newly-formed organisation Fixin T&T believes that within six months, with effective and continuous strategies, the country could be on its way to becoming a harmonious, peaceful nation. The organisation's logo, a heart, represents patriotism. Waithe, former president of Arrive Alive which was founded in January 2005, said Fixin T&T, which was launched on Monday, was fast growing in popularity. The idea, Waithe said, germinated about two or three years ago, adding that some of Fixin T&T's policies were adapted from Arrive Alive.
"We learnt a lot in Arrive Alive about many others things that require urgent attention," he said. "Even for Arrive Alive's objectives to be achieved there are many other issues that need to be urgently addressed–like our administration of justice. "Moving on to Fixin T&T and leaving Arrive Alive afforded us the opportunity to address other critical issues that would positively impact on the issues of Arrive Alive as well." Waithe said Fixin T&T stood on four pillars–courage, consistency, commitment and consequence. "The perception is that there is no consequence so that if a person runs a red light–the business person or politician with the stroke of a pen who engages in corrupt activities–they all do it because they believe they would be not caught so they continue," he said.?
Two fundamental challenges
According to Waithe, the country faced two basic challenges, both of which were easily surmountable. One, according to Waithe, was lack of law enforcement which led to the perception of lack of consequence. "Which was why most people did the things that they do–from the bandit who uses the pen to the bandit who uses the gun," he said. The second Waithe identified was illiteracy. "We're too rich to be so poor...Many of our issues are symptomatic of poor countries, poor economies," he said. "Successive governments have buried their heads in the sand with respect to our illiteracy level and we need to make sure illiteracy is part of the legislative agenda in the next Parliamentary session." He described Fixin T&T as much more than a "think tank, " but rather "an implementation tank."
Swift justice and consequence
Law enforcement, Waithe said, required three key components; knowledge that wrongdoers would be caught, understanding that once caught there would be swift justice and meaningful consequence.
"When we have those three things we start addressing the issue of crime and lawlessness," he said. "We need leaders with courage to commit to go after the bandits from the hills of Laventille to the hills of Goodwood Park, from Beetham Gardens to the halls of Parliament." He added that it must be understood that the law was applicable to all and would be enforced without fear of favour.
Why would Fixin T&T work? Waithe said what people chose to accept was much more important than what they demanded. "We have been demanding for a long time safety and security, a proper health and education system but what we choose to accept that ultimately defines us as a country," he said.
He said it was only when people decided to accept something different then they would end up in a different place with a different result. "So we citizens must understand that it could be fixed and that T&T is capable of creating a society for the world to model...That's the basis of Fixin T&T's concept," Waithe said.
And by simply deciding to choose something different was the only way that it could be achieved, he added. "Part of our strategy is to get citizens in actively participating in our democracy and in taking our country forward," Waithe added.
Fixin T&T's measures
Immediate measure Waithe said was "getting the law enforcement right." Saying that safety and security were the first job of every leader, Waithe added that human resource was a country's most valuable asset. He said this must be recognised because without safety and security there could be no stability and without stability no real growth could be achieved. "T&T has been in a collision and is in the emergency room and is incapacitated...We first have to stabilise T&T so that we can then focus on specific aliments like illiteracy," Waithe said. Taking full control of the nation's roads, he suggested would not only lead to the creation of a more stable society but it would also reduce crime and road carnage."Everything has to pass on our roads...We have a water ferry but even to get to that you have to pass on the roads," he said.
"We can take control of our roads and cause the public minimal inconvenience and in so doing we bring criminals to their knees...we can get the guns and bandits off the streets." Saying that the state of the Police Service was no fault of the lawmen, Waithe said blame should be placed instead on the general public. "Because as citizens we were part in allowing the politicians generally to allow the service to degenerate to the state that it is in right now," he said. "A lot of government policy dictates how the Police Service and other independent institutions operate." He added that motivation and morale played critical roles, saying it was impossible to achieve effective and efficient law enforcement policies with a demotivated and demoralised law enforcement agency. "The conditions under which the police work are pathetic at best," Waithe said.
Two Tuesday's ago, members of Fixin T&T met with Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and submitted the following recommendations:
�2 Immediately revise the compensation package of the Police Service.
�2 Immediately commence a needs assessment on the working conditions and resources of the Police Service.
"Safety and security is an investment," Waithe said. "When we manage the roads correctly crime will not only decrease, but the travel advisories will also come off the international Web sites and more people will start coming in the country. "It will lead to an entire domino effect where businesspeople will open at later hours because they feel safe, so more revenue will be generated and the economy stimulated." He said it was also suggested that independent institutions become "strong and truly independent." "Our politicians have created independent institutions in name only," he added.
Recruitment of officers
At the end of January 2011, Waithe said he hoped to create a bank of 1,000 volunteers. "We feel what T&T requires of its citizens more than anything else is the investment of time," he said. "These people would invest five hours of their time per month whether it's teaching someone to read and write, filing something in the judiciary so the system could become more efficient or helping the police with IT."