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posted 28 Nov 2017, 05:16 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 28 Nov 2017, 05:29 ]
I found out about the community response to the arrest of 'its gang leaders' late on Thursday evening. I had a busy week, reporting on the dispossessed and denied workers who have been 'law abiding' but denied economic sustenance.

How long must MTS workers wait?
That Wednesday evening, representatives of TIWU had scheduled a meeting with the line Minister, only to be told that there was an emergency and the meeting had to be called off. In response the workers and their representatives said they were quite prepared to wait out the emergency, which was quickly dealt with somehow.

Still, although agreement has/had been reached with the management of MTS, for a year now the signing has been delayed awaiting further instructions from the Chief Personnel Officer and the line Minister. The meeting bore no fruit, with the workers being told that 'there was no money'.

On Wednesday the President of the Steel Workers Union, Comrade Christopher Henry took us through the struggle he and his team of officers and workers have been waging since Arcelor Mittal was allowed to summarily walk out of salary negotiations, shut down the plant and avoid paying severance benefits to workers. Simply put, nothing has changed much for the workers after 2 years of being locked out.

Please note as we go along that UTT workers will be paid late in November, according to media reports. Last month it was the public servants. ‘What a co-incidence' sings Hugh Masakela. In the same news story, the IMF was congratulating the government on the measures it is putting in place to manage the economy; a piece of history that is worth noting, if we may.

Previously the IMF would mandate governments to implement certain policies conditional to receiving 'aid'. In the 80's/90's this led to insurrections in some countries. The 'beast' was forced to retreat and hide its face. In turn the governments implemented the 'adjustment policies' themselves, deflecting rancour and anger away from the lending agencies, but the resulting social and economic damage was the same.

The residents in the 'hotspots' do not have recognised majority unions to represent them so they find themselves engaging in 'direct democracy' in an effort to be heard. Seems they decided to hold their own Joint Select Committee hearing in the street. We have no idea what caused the residents to block the roadways. Was there criminal activity in the wake of the protest? Yes. To suggest that was the motive is to perilously miss the point.

The responses have ranged from threat of further 'clamping down' on lawlessness to protect 'law abiding citizens', to the self serving and sympathy soliciting. In condemning the lawlessness of the men, women and children in the street that day, no mention was made of the stench in the judiciary, on the State boards, in the Port Authority, in the numerous special purpose companies, in the police force.

Image result for chief justice archieIt is okay, one assumes, for the Chief Justice to attempt to replace the security of fellow judges with a private security firm, owned by a close personal acquaintance with a criminal record or to 'wink, wink' at the confirmation that oil that was paid for never arrived in Petrotrin's tanks. The 'gangstas/gang leaders' in these environments seem to enjoy immunity from prosecution.

One well known entertainment figure went on social media to lament what had happened to her and to ask what was happening to this sweet T'&T. Unfortunately, we never see videos from relatives coming in the wake of a police/army patrol which may have left someone dead and thrown into the back of a police van/jeep.

Ask yourself, would you be willing to go along quietly under arrest, knowing it is the beginning of years of nightmare on Remand Yard, while 'judicial officers' hold consultations or travel all over the world rather than see to it that the system gives you an early court date?

Probably the most rabid, reactionary, response came from a talk show host who, in chatting with a thoroughly discredited former Minister of National Security, asked for rubber bullets and protective armour for law enforcement officers. Guess the people in Beetham ought to suffer in silence while she sips her morning brew, probably having sped up the Beetham at a speed that would have left Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton in her wake.

It is one step removed from shooting at “lawless/ lumpen/ gangster elements” to shooting at retrenched workers protesting for their 
Image result for trinidad riot policeseverance pay and workers who have already worked for their wages and have not been paid.

The Prime Minister has made the traditional law and order speech, threatening to bring the full weight of the law on the 'lawless elements'. He calls on the police and army to move in and deal with the situation; as if guns, and handcuffs and army patrols have anywhere in the world solved social problems.

He laments that such a large slice of the budget goes to national security in response to the social situation. Maybe if the social malaise had been addressed as it should have been, then, there would be no need for such a large allocation to defense. In any case, all this money thrown their way has not worked. But some benefit from the turnover in police vehicles, private transportation of prisoners, contracts to make uniforms, purchase of army transport and on and on.

A comrade suggested that Colm Imbert might be the happiest man alive in Trinidad and Tobago. It may not have been the riot he wanted but it is a start. There will be others. Some of us who had bought into the lie of ‘Trinidad is nice…Trinidad is a paradise' had a wakeup call on that highway.

Panic, terror and headlong flight: it is not something to wish on anyone but there will be other flashpoints regardless of how hard the commercial sector promotes the Christmas spirit, even as heavily armed 'law' enforcement mingles with Christmas shoppers in the malls or how we are encouraged to jump and play mas. All ah we is…!