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East Port of Spain: A Pawn in Trinidad & Tobago's Politics?

Stealing the headlines in Trinidad and Tobago of late has been a spate of murders in the eastern portion of the capital, Port of Spain, and a subsequent police raid on the area that is leaving bloggers questioning what – if anything – was accomplished.

The Eternal Pantomime began this post by knocking the media for perpetuating criminal stereotypes:

After nearly a month of killings – Trinidad and Tobago began to notice that east of George Street was heating up again: Duncan and Nelson were at war and you could bank on hearing about at least two murders a day coming from that area. The news media, getting their information from the police, never ventured beyond the formulaic description of ‘gang-related’ killing. We didn’t know what were the names of the gangs, or if the gangs were even from East Port of Spain…but you see, that doesn’t matter. This is Trinidad, where the myth is that all criminals are black and all black people are criminals. So the details don’t matter, just the big picture.

And it was the big picture the Police service was interested in on Sunday. Radio and Internet news headlines blared it out 90 Arrested in East Port of Spain Raid! Yuh see, they finally get their act together and doing something! Twelve arrested during the week and now, look, a whole 90 in one Sunday morning!

She maintained that the raid turned out to be useless, and compared it to the country's state of emergency in 2011:

The 300 (officers) literally descended onto Nelson and Duncan, and according to residents, few saw a search warrant. They simply looked on while doors were kicked down, possessions were strewn about and their loveds ones were carted away. Many on just suspicion…no evidence. Which is why today, just two days after the raid, 59 of the 90 arrested are back out on the streets. And all 12 men held for the murders last week are back home as well.

These past 2 days have been like SoE 2011 deja vu for anyone who happens to be black, from an urban community, and possibly from a single parent home…worse yet if you have dread locks. It is the second time in two years we have had a spike in the murder toll lead to either a full fledged State of Emergency, or similar conditions.

This time around there was no official announcement of emergency conditions, no Kamla on tv nervously announcing from her kitchen that we under a limited state of nonsense, but the features were all there.

The blogger, Rhoda Bharath, then quipped:

Aware that several arms of the state – Police and Govt – now looking patently bad, there are rumblings from the police that they may re-arrest some of the released persons. Almost as if Sunday was a dry-run and later this week will be the real deal. Let’s hope they have evidence this time and not a ‘feeling'.

A Sterling Perspective, meanwhile, focused on the purpose behind a recent meeting that the government hosted in the affected area:

Coming out of the meeting Prime MInister Kamla Persad Bissesssar said she would reserve her response to the people but say that their most pressing concerns were a need for housing and jobs. As many times as I turn it over in my head I end up perplexed. Im like really? You have two dead teenagers and not one person in that community could have said what actually lead to their deaths, what they want is jobs and houses? Isn't there a bigger problem at hand here?

I wouldn't go so far as to say that low cost government housing schemes have failed but they do remain among this most violent communities in the country outside of the hot spots that border the capital. We have some housing projects, among the first built in the Capital by the State, two teenagers are gunned down within their walls in essence and what comes out of a meeting stemming from that is a call for houses and jobs – a bloody red herring if you ask me.

The blogger, Sterling Henderson, agreed with The Eternal Pantomime's take on the whole affair as “a pappy show”:

To compound that description there was a supposed media black out of the meeting, yet Government Information Services Limited had full access to the whole thing! So now it might be that the goings ons would be edited and packaged and presented by himself when the commentary was on himself, you get me?

In that vein, Bharath noted:

The Prime Minister is returning to East Port of Spain on Wednesday. She may dissolve into tears again. Following her loss in popularity, coupled with this spike in crime, she must feel the need to do some serious PR and cajoling.

Henderson continued his examination of the meeting:

Its (sic) like we're all acting without fear of impunity – criminals, politicians, citizens and media. It was so glaring a side step of the real issue that lead to the meeting that the prime minister was proud to say that Housing Development Corporation officials were on hand to address the concerns of the residents who called for housing assistance…the more I think about it the more vexing it all becomes.

The irony of the whole situation was not lost on The Eternal Pantomime:

…Every one is patently aware of why East Port of Spain is this way…a combination of neglect and total disrespect from regime after regime. But many of us don’t care. Once the crime not affecting us, is ok.

But briefly pandering to and then largely ignoring these areas has become a game…and if you were keeping score…you’d realise that everyone is tied at a big fat zero…except the ones that were murdered.

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