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Come clean on SoE or lift it

Published: 
Friday, November 11, 2011

Understandably, the business community, workers whose job functions require them to be moving around during the late evening and early morning periods must feel relieved by the ending of the curfew. And logically it had to end now as increasingly the returns from the enforced restrictions on movement were dwindling. It would have been unthinkable without very solid reasons for the curfew to have been extended into the Christmas and Carnival periods. The decline in economic and social activity would have resulted in serious social protests. It is therefore wise of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that, as she said, she heeded the advice of the National Security Council and removed the curfew to allow law-abiding citizens freedom to pursue their livelihood and otherwise.

With regard to the state of emergency, the Government must either come forward with a serious, transparent and defensible rationale for its continuance or instantly lift it. If the intention is to keep it in place, the Prime Minister must do better than she did earlier this week and say exactly why the emergency conditions should continue. This is an enlightened world of 2011 and generalised emotional appeals to patience will not work. The Prime Minister must also distinguish between the statements of politicians like herself seeking to score points as opposed to sensible and probing citizens wanting to know why the Government is continuing with a measure which seems to have run its course.

She must also know that threats like those issued by the leader of government business in the House of Representatives, Dr Roodal Moonilal, about the ability of the Government to reinstitute the curfew at a “moment’s notice” really hold no fears for people wanting quality governance as opposed to somewhat childish political threats. If however the national community is to tolerate further suspension of fundamental constitutional rights, it must be fully informed and so be in a position to make a judgment on whether the emergency will con- tinue to serve a purpose or has indeed served its usefulness and the diminishing returns are not worth the discomfort. 

Those serious matters notwithstanding, the real issue facing the country now is to discern if the SoE and curfew would have brought lasting and meaningful reprieve from criminal activity. Yes, the country has heard the spokesman for the police make statements to the effect that there will be no wholesale return to criminality. And so too did Prime Minister Per-sad-Bissessar quote a number of statistics to jus- tify the usefulness of the emergency measures. Surely, if criminals were prevented from roaming the streets it is expected that crime statistics would have declined substantially.

The issue now is: Has there been a “break and entry” into the criminal gangs? Have the leaders been taken out of circulation? Have the gang establishments, if not brought to ruin, been dismantled in a manner that would make it impossible for the criminals to recover now or at any time in the near future? The population now wants a demonstration that the gangs are the ones that have been battered into submission and that the police have broken the back of the cocaine and drugs trade.

At the start of the SoE, the Attorney General made more than a few comments about those held being the big criminals. Most of such people have been released without charge and no one remotely resembling the importers and exporters has been held. Action has to replace ole talk and mamaguy statements. The nation will be watching closely to see the medium to long-term benefits of the sacrifices made by all over the curfew period.

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