Fortify your rat holes


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 13 Mar 05


Last week this columnist took the Prime Minister by the hand on an imaginative and unofficial tour of his country. Together we saw his petrified people in La Seiva, their candles flickering at dusk as they prayed for the release of a 63-year-old vet. We imagined the visceral silent screams of the families of the scores of kidnapped victims. We agreed he would hate to feel that fear for his own flesh and blood.


We saw in the urban ghettos, the hollow empty faces of young men looking for prey. We saw the same unseeing eyes in the country their brains addled with poverty, their minds blind with illiteracy, even worse off because they are forgotten. We talked about the illiteracy, (600,000 people) the poverty (500,000 people) and the kidnapping, and agreed it was time he and his Government took charge of his brothers and sisters.


The people wanted the Prime Minister to act. The next day we got some action but not from the Prime Minister. A 60-year-old woman was snatched screaming while jogging in Westmoorings by two armed men. A 42-year-old man of Valsayn was dragged out of a curry house in Aranguez and bundled into a car by armed men.


The streets emptied out, turned into eerie ghost towns, people slashed their lives in half and then some, and starting living like trapped rats in holes.


But there were thousands of little eyes peeping out of the rat holes that their business places, homes, cars, had turned into. Was help coming? Would their leader respond.


He did, ladies and gentlemen, he did. The very next day to his credit, the Prime Minister responded to the scourge of kidnapping. He spoke to journalists.


“What did he say? What did he say?” clamoured the people. “Did he say that he was going to get the regiment involved to patrol the streets? Did he say that he would do everything in his power to make the streets, businesses, homes, bars, restaurants, cars, safe again? Did he say he was going to equip and train the police? Did he say he would personally visit these believed and scared families as Prime Ministers do, worldwide? Did he say he was going to get young men off the streets and into classrooms, and training and jobs?”


Well? Er, the journalists were forced to report that the Prime Minister said in effect that the kidnapping was none of his business. It was the business of the Minister of National Security. Did his Minister of National Security then make a statement, visit homes? No.


Vital State television time is instead taken up with pictures of the Prime Minister receiving awards for unknown deeds of grandeur, newspaper space shows other close members of his Cabinet beaming as they give more awards to one another, article show our diplomats making multimillion dollar pools. For what?


Ghost towns? Illiterate people listlessly waving cutlasses or guns? The forgotten poor, babies with big stomachs suffering from malnutrition, illiterate children playing in mud, cursing angry young men in rural areas? A nation under siege?


People retired into their rat holes, as they continued to be terrorised by fresh kidnappings. This time it was a 16-year-old school girl. No one is spared, not schoolchildren, not older men, not older women, not young men.


Sorry people we have turned into the invisible ones. Time for us to disappear into our rat holes. The people you have elected into power, and even those in the Opposition are busy people. They have meetings to go to. No one is going to do anything for you because they can’t see you. Just fortify your rat holes. And if you don’t like it, leave.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur