The moneyed the armed rule with chaos


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Category: Trinidad Society 11 Jan 15

Sometimes I think journalists talk too much. We have an opinion on everything. In the process of reporting, we eventually know a little about a lot of stuff. As editors and reporters we are on occasion elated that the police checks have given us a gruesome murder. It’s a lead story.

Sometimes we get so busy reporting individual stories that we don’t have time to join the dots. The other thing is that the noise about us is relentless. The carols and parang have now given way to our finest state funded heritage, the soca and chutney encouraging us to drink, and dance like fornicating dogs on the streets.

And there is the radio and television, the endless talk, the din of the traffic, and the ringing, pinging of a million cell phones. Last night, the strains of panmen practicing for Carnival put me to sleep but this morning, a calypso blasting with a woman’s voice repeating “Ah feeling sexy,” is blocking all thought.

The plus side of living in a country the size of a village really, people talk a lot amongst one another. They talk endlessly to journalists as we line up for popcorn in the cinema, in waiting rooms, in the aisles of groceries. I never used to understand this “trust” in journalists. But now I understand. People talk to us because they WANT us to know certain things so we can be the conduit of change, so we can pass the messages along to someone who has the power to change things. This week, I watched, read and listened. A daily paper shows a dead robber face down, people turned away from him. He is being treated as casually as a dead dog. Turn the page and a stray scrawny dog sniffs the pavement where a man in white protective gear is bending over a murder scene. The murdered man’s final minutes as he was hacked by a cutlass would have been the sight of a dirty drain, garbage bags and a mangy dog.

So listen. I was listening to the breeze swirling leaves around the savannah when a sudden movement startled me. It was policemen on a motorbike, part of a motorcade, telling me to get the f--- out of the way. He kept up the abuse while I moved aside, my heart pounding at the sight of so many guns, helmets, uniforms.

Close your eyes for a minute. See the flashing lights in T&T, hear the sirens. Lower your gaze from the beauty of the hills. A woman in the bakery asked with thinly veiled aggression as I mulled over warm bread, “Did you hear about the man in the wheelchair being manhandled by two police?” I had seen the video and heard the sadistic chortling of the man taking the video. A plain clothes policeman was slapping a wheelchair-bound man. A burly female officer took over. She coldly, brutally, deliberately released the breaks of the disabled man’s wheelchair and shoved it down a street.

While packing my purchase, the woman in the bakery offered her opinion on the video. “You know what happened with that? You know why the, Minister of National Security, Police Commissioner and Police Complaints Authority stepped in?” I listened. “That kind of brutality goes on ALL the time. It’s just that this time they got caught on a video that went viral on Facebook. So now the ‘authorities’ are ‘shocked.’ But they know it goes on all the time.”

I wanted to kneel and thank her for her fearlessness on behalf of all citizens when she told me her story. Six years ago, a police officer, the head of a police station, got into an altercation with her mother and sister. He slapped and beat up the two women. But my intrepid young baker did not give in to fear of the gun power of the police. She was not taking that. She reported the incident. She took the policeman to court.

The case is dragging on as they do in this country. In the meantime, the police officer, still head of a police station, sends his police friends to block the entrance of her driveway, to follow her about threateningly. We may not be living in a police state, but we all live in fear. Except for the young baker.

At a lime with friends, I heard a similar story but this was more menacing than the other. An activist, one of the few fearless members of civil society who spoke out against state corruption was followed home with police officers with machine guns who told him he had to come to the police station for a crime he hadn’t committed. He shouted as loud as he could to alert neighbours until the police and their guns slunk away. This demonstrates something about us in our noisy, unthinking society. We drown our fear in noise. We are more afraid of change than we are of fear because the ones with the guns have their own agenda.

That’s why we pulled down the former Canadian police commissioner Dwayne Gibbs who was actually putting systems into place. The powerful can’t control the masses when there is order. The moneyed and the armed rule with chaos. Will somebody please turn up the volume?


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur