The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a multicultural melting pot blessed with a cavalcade of natural resources. For decades, we have sipped the sweet nectar of West Texas Intermediate and carelessly, often recklessly rode the train of economic joy.
Without seeing our terminal bout of Dutch Disease and failing to find our identity as an independent people, we stand here in 2020.
Since 2015, there has been over 2,400 murders. There has been 750 persons going missing on average, per year. The images of blood and gore emanating from bullet riddled bodies stain the walls of social media as it penetrates our minds so frequently, our hearts have become hardened to the brutality of our reality.
The soil of our once Twin Island paradise has been soaked by the blood of the innocent and the tears of their loved ones.
Criminality has gripped us, it has relegated us to bunkering down, where even then, the sanctity of our own home is regularly violated.
How has this once oil and gas titan deteriorated in such a way? How have we arrived here?
We have been made witness to a political blame game where our Minister of National Security dumps blood on the shoulders of the Opposition. Where official members of the Opposition and their activists dangerously dance on a thin line, often leaning into the morally bankrupt realm of turning crime into a vehicle for political clout, thus adulterating the severity of this epidemic. Where there is a concise, fundamental lack of visionary and innovative leadership to recognize the crisis on our hands and how we must approach it.
We have seen widespread failures from Anaconda to Zero-Tolerance. We have seen the Gary project fail as the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is often outgunned and outplayed. We are seeing our land quickly slip away into the abyss as 67 lives have been taken in the first 42 days of 2020, alone.
However, I have always believed that crime is fundamentally a representation of the socio-economic shortcomings of a state. In Trinidad and Tobago, I see no difference. Our current regime has failed to bring innovation to a tanking economy and with that comes increased rates of unemployment and a general lack of opportunities for the middle and lower class.
There is a distinct ideological bankruptcy within the trendsetting powers of the Seat of Democracy. A stubborn insistence of holding the repo rate at 5%. A mistimed increase in the Green Levy. An ignorant boast of a 1.2% headline inflation rate.
The State has been turned firmly against most businesses, most of the energy sector and many historically key allies. As a result, this, amplified by a lack of job creation and economic diversification paints a picture of a Government that has given up; a sitting duck that is waiting for a perceived inevitable implosion.
Why is this important to our crime state? Well. It’s simple. Economic stagnation means most necessities increase in price, which strains the working class. It means that many don’t have opportunities to be employed. It means that there is significantly less money in the pockets of the common man.
And at that point, human instincts for survival are triggered. Man has no money. Man can’t provide for his family. Man becomes desperate. Man often turns to crime.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making a case of sympathy for murderers but economic realities cannot be ignored for much longer.
When it is easier for a young man to choose a gun and a mask for a quick $1,000 at the literal risk of his life rather than to fight and claw and build himself up and secure longevity and prosperity, then that’s a telling sign of systemic failure.
I know that sounds hyper-critical but we must strive for the highest of heights in a hope that progress breaks through the grey skies.
As the tears continue to flow from the eyes of our mothers and the hearts of our fathers continue to be tested, we need to recognize our failings.
No amount of bankrolling of the Police Service, no amount of press conferences, no amount of thinly veiled actions in a search for political clout will be an effective bandage for the economic wounds of our middle and lower class.
We have failed our brothers and sisters in the lowest class of society, in a way that they’re almost the lowest caste.
When we see holistic decision making that doesn’t subjugate the working man. When we see long term planning and real social development. When we see a reduced emphasis of the politique. When we see a true recognition of our real issues. It is only then, we can take back our beautiful land.
But until then, the hearts of many of our brothers and sisters, regardless of background, will continue to turn dark.
Until then, we will remain the Gunman Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.