Political analyst tells PM: Listen to the public on crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Kanisha Bostock –

“A legislative framework that is not legislation is not going to solve the crime situation.”

UWI political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath drew this conclusion in a phone conversation with Newsday on Friday.

His comments followed the Prime Minister’s address on challenges and disagreements in organising crime talks with the opposition, during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s last Monday.

Dr Rowley said the government was willing to hold discussions outside Parliament if the opposition were open to it. However, he voiced scepticism about the Opposition’s commitment, suggesting political motivation might hinder progress.

Ragoonath said, “The PM has made it clear he’s not going to allow the Opposition to make demands on his government in terms of who could attend.”

He suggested the government should focus on talks with the public, criticising the approach taken and emphasising the importance of consultation and dialogue with the citizenry.

Jamil Keller –

He believes the government’s focus on legislation as a means to fight crime is selling the country short.

He applauded a proposal by the PM in January for a national consultation on crime, emphasising that a consultation would allow people affected by or close to crime to voice their positions and offer possible solutions.

Ragoonath criticised the PM’s decision to have Caricom consultations instead, saying that it left the public out of the process. Ragoonath shared examples of students in his classes who had valuable insights into crime and solutions based on their personal experiences, highlighting the need for the government to listen to the voices of the people.

He expressed disappointment in the PM’s leadership, saying, “Yes, he’s PM, but he’s no leader, because a leader listens to his followers, listens to his people and thereupon makes decisions.”

On the PM’s not wanting former commissioner of police Gary Griffith to be part of the crime talks, Ragoonath said, “Even if Gary Griffith has a suggestion, does that mean that it should not be considered at all? Isn’t he a citizen and should he not be given the opportunity to be heard?”

Ragoonath concluded, “The criminal elements know the government does not have a plan. Legislation does not solve crime, and the criminals know that, so they could pass as much legislation as they want.

Delores Jarrette –

“Over the last weekend, the Police Commissioner, Erla Harewood-Christopher, boasted that they rounded up gang leaders.

“What came of that? Absolutely nothing.

“We have gang legislation in place, but the only thing we could have charged them with is loitering.”

On Thursday, Newsday took to the streets of Port of Spain to get the public’s reaction.

La Neisha Vane from Maraval said she believed the government and opposition were not serious about fighting crime.

“If they would make an effort, we might have seen some sort of positive impact on crime. They could at least take a chance, or at least make an effort.”

Vane said she was unsure if there was anything that could be done to fight crime.

La Neisha Vane –

Arouca resident Jamil Keller highlighted the importance of communication and support between the police and the government, saying, “The government and opposition don’t seem to be on the same page. They have different agendas and one has a political bias versus the other. The government needs to focus on building relationships with the police service and the CoP (Commissioner of Police).”

Kumar Vincent of St Augustine said, “I think it’ll make a bigger difference. Crime in this country is out of control. I don’t like it. We need all hands on deck.”

Delores Jarrette from Belmont advocated for the maintenance of joint crime initiatives involving the police, army and other security branches during the Christmas and Carnival seasons.

“That is working. We don’t have crime when it’s Carnival and Christmas. Well, crime is lower when they put the police and army out.

“We should just forget about crime talks and use the systems we have in place.”

Martin Granger of Moruga emphasised the need to address smaller issues contributing to crime, such as making it easier for young people to have bank accounts. He believed focusing on such measures would help prevent frustration that might lead to criminal activities.

Martin Granger –

Morvant resident Kanisha Bostock expressed frustration: “It’s not difficult if they wanted to stop crime, they could. They just don’t want to stop it. They should at least try, but I feel the government and opposition don’t care about crime or at least lowering the crime rate.

“If they did, they would put aside the politics and think about the people.”

Bostock said she would like to see a stronger police presence.

“If something is to happen to me, if I get robbed, there are no police around.”

In September, President Christine Kangaloo called for cross-party talks on crime during the ceremonial opening of Parliament.