THE lure of money nowadays pulls hard and pushes towards crime all at once. It’s a growing phenomenon whose deeper meaning is debatable; eluding precise explanation. How pervasive this push/pull theory and what can be done gnaws at my mind whenever a life is lost through homicide or, at the hands of those paid to serve and protect – the police. A free and thoughtful people ought to openly discuss such matters perchance to discover whether there are links between crime, drugs, poverty and the criminal justice system, as practised.
There is a growing perception that drug trafficking and use operates under the radar in the Caribbean, and that those charged with governance in the region are fully aware. Some ‘experts’ are quick to blame a lack of parental guidance and a growing disrespect and greed. Others point to the absence of God, which leaves the youth without a moral anchor of faith and hope, resulting in empty lives.
People tend to follow examples set by their leaders. But what happens when there is a dearth of exemplary leadership; when a voice for discipline and rectitude in society, goes silent? Can a people which blithely and blindly drift rudderless, groping towards a suitable port for repairs and rebooting in this unforgiving world?
These questions resurfaced after reading an article by one Ria Taitt, reporting from a Vice News exclusive in a Trinidad Express newspaper some three weeks ago. The source of Ms Taitt’s article was a round-table conference on the drug problem in Trinidad and Tobago organized by the Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT), at Westmoorings, in Port-of-Spain.
“Is the institutional base of Trinidad and Tobago – Customs, police service, coast guard, immigration, prisons, retrofitted so it can face and neutralize the threat (of increasing drug infrastructure and trafficking), facing the twin-island State?” was a topic of discussion.
There’s growing suspicion that the Mexican drug cartel is behind the use of Trinidad’s drug infrastructure. A relatively high disposable income and its location and proximity to Venezuela and Colombia make Trinidad a convenient kick-off point for drugs to be distributed locally and in the Caribbean and the USA.
The report mentioned Daurius Figueira, researcher and author on the dominant illicit trades of the Caribbean who noted that, ‘there is an entirely new breed of white-collar criminal in the Caribbean. Drug trafficking in the Caribbean was intimately tied to violence and organized crime, and a means by which to terminate a threat to their illicit lifestyles. These ‘white collar’ criminals are ready to put down hits to take out people who are a threat to their illicit enterprise. And they are willing to walk on the violent side to protect their interests.’
Criminologists Renee Cummings raised the issue of weak social support systems, as opposed to weak or suspect institutions, which allow these illicit measures. These observations should send chills down the spine of every Caribbean – and Saint Lucian patriot. The report tellingly concluded that, many criminals in the drugs trade in Trinidad have become intertwined in politics, doing favours for politicians and receiving lucrative government contracts for public works and construction payouts meant to alleviate unemployment.
That revelation is more reason for concern. One thing seems certain; there is need for a closer examination of family history and character of those presenting themselves as candidates for election to parliament, and leaders of constituency groups. Also, a closer in-depth look at the island’s police service, its customs, prisons and its criminal justice system, seems prudent at this time.
There have been quiet whispers and finger-pointing of persons who suddenly became prosperous; a situation difficult to swallow given the visible sources of their meagre incomes. Small fishing vessels plying the dark Caribbean Sea have become a source of wealth for the ‘nouveau riche.’ It therefore begs the question: Is anyone authorized (or, legally bound) to investigate the starting point of such excessive new wealth?
Saint Lucians have been socialized by religion which teaches docility, obedience and ‘turning the other cheek.’ Still, the ‘show-off-your-wealth-disease’ is on the rise even amongst those who preach ‘fire and brimstone’ in the name of religion. Eradicating crime and the drugs menace and saving the youth of the nation become harder and harder with each passing day. Crime and lawlessness are more and more interwoven into the fabric of society.
What can be done? Should politicians and their backers speak more loudly and clearly on crime and drugs? What if their source of income is from illicit drugs? How can one reasonably explain a situation wherein politicians promise to wipe out illiteracy, and at the same time accept payments from unscrupulous drug dealers, who need a regular supply of misguided youth as foot soldiers?
It has been said over and over again that an independent and fearless people ought to be on guard to jealously protect their freedom and independence. To that end the people ought to monitor the use and abuse of the media and to keep an eye out for those who preach ‘fire and brimstone’ while they engage in all sorts of nefarious activity. Hypocrites are often lured by easy money whatever the source. They care little about destroying young minds and lives. Such fork-tongued abusers build mansions for themselves and their lovers, while a sizeable portion of their congregations and/or supporters remain mired in poverty and want.
Wherever one turns in the Caribbean young males appear to be at risk for all sorts of reasons determining whether they live or they die. Saint Lucia is no different and at times feels like a constituency of Trinidad on the crime scale. Parallels can be illusive at times. But given all that is known, it may be an opportune time for a new and more engaging look at the youth of Saint Lucia, perchance to make the hard choices and course correction, in order to secure the future.
It is high time for a more resolute and determined leadership to rise up and to teach that crime does not pay. The youth of Saint Lucia need exemplary leadership and guidance more than ever before. And parents dedicated to raising disciplined, law-abiding citizens need the support of the State. In times past, leaders of business, church and politics faced rising crime and other difficult issues squarely. And there was a criminal justice system which backed them up. The latter seems dead and there is no new plan for a different and superior regime of justice and punishment. We just love to avoid crucial issues while speaking in whispers. How long can this ostrich-like life style persist, is anyone’s guess.