Moonilal: Can’t sing our way out of crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal –

The United National Congress’ (UNC) shadow minister for National Security and MP for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal says the Government cannot sing its way out of crime in reference to a newly launched anti-crime music initiative aimed at youth.

The Ministry of National Security launched the Call-To-Order initiative on Monday at Port of Spain City Hall.

It targets youth between ten and 24, and invites them to record videos singing their own lyrics using the instrumental for The Call.

The Call is a song by Marvin King feat Isasha, Ziggy Ranking, King David and Prophet Benjamin in response to what the artistes termed “the unfortunate upsurge of violent crime.”

The Call-To-Order initiative’s videos should be no longer than two minutes and uploaded to Instagram Reels using the hashtag Call To Order.

It was explained that contestants would be grouped into three categories: ten-12, 13-19 and 20-24 and the winner/s will be determined by the most likes and shares. The winners in each category will receive $10,000.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said at Monday’s launch that the competition was another tool being used by the Government to respond to crime and criminality.

Asked for his thoughts on the initiative in a phone interview, Moonilal said, “While the promotion of culture, the performing arts and incentives to the youth to do recording and music production, by itself, is laudable, commendable and is something that must be encouraged…I don’t think we could sing our way out of crime.”

Moonilal said dealing with crime had to do with strengthening the police’s resources, capacity management and having a hands-on impact on crime.

“Minister Hinds is advised to wake up from his lengthy sleep and manage properly the resources of the Ministry of National Security.”

He added that police were “crying out” for basic resources like notepads, pens and kitchen facilities and these were the issues that should be addressed to deal with crime.

“Regular patrols, not only in the day, but in the night as well. These are the bread-and-butter issues he has to deal with.

“Making a song and telling people not to kill – while that is laudable and something we compliment artistes for doing – I am not sure that will drive down the rate of murder and serious criminal offences.”

Moonilal added that he was not sure that murderers, kidnappers and bandits would take a message from a good song.

“We have a lot of songs, as you know. We have artistes who produce a lot of good music calling on people to put down their guns. I just heard a fantastic chutney item by a leading chutney star calling on the youths to put down their guns and so on.

“We don’t only have a proliferation of guns but a proliferation of songs calling on criminal elements to stop in their tracks, put in reverse gear and put down the guns.

“But I am not sure that these initiatives, certainly under the People’s National Movement and Hinds, will help more than the initiatives of resourcing the police (and) proper management of national security, beginning with the removal of Minister Hinds.”

Political commentator Dr Winford James asked if scientific research was used in deciding to implement the initiative.

He said it could always be said that was a good thing to do and the country could try it and see if it works.

But, he said, “The motivation for it and the basis for its use is not particularly known, is it?”

In his address on Monday, Hinds said sociologists and criminologists agreed that a more people-centric approach to crime fighting might be equally useful.

There are many journal articles addressing the link between music and crime in many forms.

A 2023 article on the University of Sydney’s website said, “While we can clearly point to the fact that policing practices and social reactions to music can criminalise and stigmatise artists, the link between music and offending behaviour is far more complex. Counterintuitively, for example, researchers found listeners attracted to extreme music (such as certain types of death metal and rap) report positive psychosocial outcomes such as empowerment, joy and peacefulness.”

It was unclear whether studies would be done to ascertain the efficacy of the initiative.