Violent crime and the state of the economy are the lightning rods by which the current administration is being evaluated. Murder and crimes against the person are at the core of the country’s continuing disquiet and falling confidence levels.
Trinidad and Tobago is listed amongst the top ten countries with the worst murder rate per capita. Glossy press advertisements cannot change the perception that the country is under siege and that law-abiding citizens are now imposing self curfews while the criminal element, admittedly although in the minority, run riot. The recent crime surge has reinforced the impression that the authorities are fighting a losing battle, new legislation notwithstanding.
The crime situation should unite and concentrate the minds of both sides of the political directorate. All hands should be on deck to right the ship of state.
This is why the revelations of Carlton Dennie, a former director of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) on a political platform, are both distressing and disheartening.
Mr Dennie made a number of allegations, including that he was asked to fire all East Indians from the SSA. He noted that he had worked under four different heads of the National Security Council (NSC) during his tenure in the intelligence agency and concluded that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was arrogant and the 'worst' Prime Minister and head of the NSC he ever worked for. He did not spare his former Defence Force colleague, former national security minister Edmund Dillon, whom he called a “disaster.”
The Prime Minister refuted Dennie’s “firing East Indians” allegation as a “categorical lie” at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre. Not content with this rebuttal, the Prime Minister read from a 2009 document which suggested that Mr Dennie, as a department head in the SSA, “displayed repeatedly, unacceptable forms of behaviour." Somehow, Mr Dennie survived this criticism for years and continued on to become interim head of the SSA?
It is easy to dismiss Mr Dennie’s remarks as the rantings of a vindictive and wounded man anxious to settle scores for being dismissed from his position. But this is the same label that has been attached to all whom have fallen out of grace with this PNM administration. What is the truth?
The release of a Special Branch report which supported current and prior claims by the Police Commissioner that known underworld figures are in receipt of state contracts suggests that all is not well at the NSC. Indeed, a Minister was photographed at her swearing-in with such a contact. Surely, the report ought to have been discussed and dealt with at the NSC? That the report was made public suggests it was not.
Nonetheless, the silly season has started and we do not need to inflame racial tensions. The society has enough “wajang” behaviour already. Crime is a valid election agenda item but it is a serious matter, not a political football. Let good sense prevail.