Headlines      Issue Released August 13 2003

T&T murder, kidnapping rate climbs

Pressure on govt for less talk, more action

By Sandra Chouthi

Special to Indo Caribbean World

Port-of-Spain With the murder rate already at 139 and an increase in kidnappings, there’s increasing pressure on the government to take a harder line to curb the spate of crime. Prime Minister Patrick Manning has neither heeded that call nor the one to impose a limited state of emergency.

On July 21, Manning met with the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber, the South Chamber, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association, the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association, the Employers’ Consultative Asociation, the Couva Chamber, the Chaguanas Chamber and the San Juan Business Association.

"The country is in crisis," said Chamber of Commerce vice-president Christian Mouttet. "There is a great amount of fear and great concern and it needs immediate action." Mouttet said the Chamber was not advocating a state of emergency as it would send a negative message to the international community that the country had failed. The Chamber also did not want a curfew, which the Chaguanas Chamber favours.

Prime Minister Manning has his own message for criminals. Speaking on August 1 (Emancipation Day) at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Village, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, Manning said: "We are coming for the criminals, those whose intention it is to sully the good name of our country by embracing and adopting as their vocation crime and kidnapping and so on. We are coming for you."

The murder rate as of August 8 was 139, only 33 away from last year’s figure of 172. The average murder rate has been 16 each month. The latest murder victim was Juliet Gonzales-Cummings, a mother of four of New Grant, Princes Town, whom a male relative dragged out of a maxi taxi and slit her throat on August 2. She had taken out a protection order against her assailant. Gonzales-Cummings’ husband, Sean Marcellin, 34, of Buen Intento Road, New Grant, has been charged with her murder.

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The Caribana that was

Well, the dust has settled and I, along with kith and kin, are away in cottage country for the period in between the end of Caribana and the beginning of the school year that will be. A slack time, the only slack time of the year for kids and adults alike in this busy city where we are domiciled.

Time too for the revaluation of the Caribana that was, in the year 2003. A SARS-affected, relatively small event, compared to the mega-Carnivals of the past, and washed out by rain – a cold rain, bone-chilling and relentless. The event, now in its 36th year, is literally begging for reinvention, and the holes in its tattered costumery gaped at us this year, as the rain worked with Jah, licking us with diseases, bovine madness and worse, stripping the beaded illusions from the face of the masquerade.

This is neither a complaint nor an anti-Caribana rant. It is, rather, intended to be a reflection of what the act of migration means to ordinary people, as day after day they labour in the place where they live, wringing a livelihood out of the soil they inhabit, but also struggling to make sense of and find meaning in their daily lives.

The breakaway joy of the festival is slowly giving way to an exhaustion that is more than same old, same old, more than the aging of limbs and the slowing of the blood that is the lot of those who danced in the street with joy at having the time and space to stage their Carnival, throughout the heady seventies when the invention of life in this city was active and everything seemed possible.

How well I remember the prancing down University Avenue, the jamming underneath the natural tunnel formed by the overhead bridge almost at the end of the street, the pausing there, the intensity and back-in-time-and-space unforgettable quality of the music, the movement, the crowd, and the fanning out onto the ferry immediately afterwards for the rest and recovery period on Centre Island. And then, the heavy feting later in the evening. And all of that is now almost completely gone for a whole generation of past revellers.

In its place there is a new group – the young partying in a more international, more eclectic style, jamming in places like the Docks and the rash of new clubs around town, aware of themselves as "different" but uncertain about how and when to express that difference and still maintain a foothold in the hurly-burly of academic and workplace requirements for well-being and prosperity.

The serious business of life has never been more so, nor has success ever been so narrowly defined as for this young crop that we have spawned in this North American city– food on the table, money in the bank, a house in the near future and the other accoutrements of the good life to follow. As for the philosophical questions, they can be left to others.

It is a phenomenon that is in part due to globalization, but is characterized by a deep sense of alienation. In this global village, belonging is a rapidly receding possibility but the yearning to belong has not ceased. On the rainy parade route on Caribana Day, I noticed scores of young people draped in the national flags of their parents’ home islands, and especially in the T&T flag. What this means I am unsure about but conversations with the young indicate that they are clear about the fact that they want to "belong." To what and where and how are, as yet, unanswerable questions.

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Kids help TCCF to help kids

Toronto — The Caribbean Children’s Foundation (TCCF) was the recipient of a generous donation of $931 thanks to the unselfish effort of the Sangeet Maalaa School of Music. The School held a musical programme and raised the sum to help the Foundation in its work to alleviate the suffering of children from the Caribbean.

TCCF Vice-President Vidyia Persaud was present at the function and thanked the School for this laudable gesture. The School’s Principal, Mr. Amar Sanchara, said his students are all young children who are happy and excited to be able to help other children. He said that this fundraiser would now become an annual event to help promote the work of TCCF.

Vidyia said she was happy to see the young children sing and dance "just in order to give a child a second chance."


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