Life in Picton2


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Category: Trinidad Society 24 Feb 08


This is part two of a first-person account from a Picton resident, “Andy,” based on an interview.

“I grew up with a single parent, without supervision, absent teachers. Most of us in Picton didn’t get past primary or secondary school.

“There are ten gangs in my small area of Picton, with about 30 members each, some as young as 13. There is plenty pressure to join. A relative even put a gun to my head to join.

“They will shoot you, walk away and not think twice. Gangs give them rank in a world where they can’t earn anything past minimum wage like I do with a regular job.

“They feel better to have people afraid of you than pity you for being illiterate and poor.

“They claim to be Muslims. They are setting up makeshift mosques in communities. One time I was considering accepting Islam.

“I look at Muslims in my area. Muslims shooting Muslims, murdering Muslims. They ask you to join in a way that is more like a threat.

“I ask myself ‘if these people claim to be serving Allah in the respectable manner that they speak of, why they would threaten another brother?’

“If I choose to be a Christian, don’t I have that freedom?

“Men come up to men, tell them: ‘Come over.’ They go in the mosque with rubber slippers and come out in full Muslim garb, with money and guns: AKs, 380s, 357s as gangsters.

“They become somebody. But inside, they are illiterate little boys.

“The gang leaders have the knowledge. One or two have up to seven O-level passes. They use knowledge on those who will be dependent on them.

“They go to URP head office, get the contract. They call four or five gangs. Put down your name for ten days in the office where they are operating.

“Everybody signs the sheet. The contractor will say: ‘You foreman, you checker,’ you this or that. They are running ghost gangs, register, but no work is being done.

“They don’t even come out. When the fortnight comes, the contractor meets you by the bank and you hand him your money, because you didn’t work for it.

“If he feels to give you a $100 he will give a $100. If you grumble you will end up in a grave.

“The army and police presence is totally ineffective. The timing is off. Police like to gallery, roll in with their new SUVs, to ‘lock down’ a community for six or eight hours.

“They leave at about two or three in the morning, and we are back to square one. As the police pass, the gang members come out.

“Two, three in the morning you hear ‘boom, boom, boom.’

“Do the police come back by five am and try to keep the peace till the next day? No. They will drive past, breeze through.

“On their way out they would pick up a man smoking a joint. By the rough manner they handle him you would swear he is the most dangerous criminal; that he has the biggest guns.

“These guys they held last week are not involved in criminal activity. They didn’t hold the murderers, bandits or kidnappers, nor the drug dealers or the gun toters.

“They haven’t solved a single crime. The police want these people to kill out one another. One less to hunt.

“The situation is worsening; crimes are not being solved not just in Laventille, but throughout the country.

“You are not hearing of arrests. You are hearing about witnesses being shot dead.

“After that, Martin Joseph tells us he ‘underestimated crime’ and he was re-appointed National Security Minister for that.

“You say you are a caring government, and what you care about is getting rich. The people in power are eagerly playing with the money, while poor people are being run out of their slums because of guns and gangs.”

Next week: The anatomy of a gang.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur