Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog.
— Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
By any normal stretch of the imagination, Trinidad and Tobago should still be reeling from the shock waves of the murderous pirate attack which occurred at Carli Bay.
And perhaps it’s telling just how much Trinbagonian minds are now stretched, that horrifying acts of violence wash over us with ease. Since the news story broke of the seven fishermen from Orange Valley who were viciously beaten, robbed of their boat engines , then mercilessly thrown overboard and left for dead, most of us have moved on. And why shouldn’t we? After all, it was all of three weeks ago. In that time, a doubles vendor was murdered, so was the wife of a prison guard. Deep down we know the murders at Carli Bay were just another wave in a relentless sea of violence, which we are all lost in.
In fact, some of us moved on even before the bodies began washing up on shore. The day after the incident, distraught fishermen from the area accused the authorities of waiting a full 11 hours before dispatching a rescue vessel. Other fishermen claimed that they were told that Coast Guard helicopters couldn’t be used in the rescue efforts because there was no fuel. This claim was vehemently denied by the National Security Minister Stuart Young, who appeared more interested in addressing the negative newspaper reports than the grief stricken families.
Orange Valley is not a wealthy part of the country. It’s also within an Opposition stronghold. The people there are aware they are not a high priority for the government. But even they must be surprised to learn that they aren’t even worth the attention of a government minister’s stolen phone.
Indeed one government Minister, Fitzgerald Hinds, gave the impression that he felt the real victim was not the fishermen-but rather himself. In a public spat, MP for the area Ramona Ramdial lashed out at Mr Hinds and the weak government response as well as for Mr Hinds seemingly suggesting that government officials didn’t need to attend the funeral of the dead fishermen because they couldn’t go to every one.
In return, Mr Hinds claimed that his words were taken out of context and that he was sure Minister Young would have attended if “a quiet request had been made” by the families. Ms Ramdial had to then inform Mr Hinds that quiet invitations by the families weren’t possible on account of people either being dead or paralysed by grief.
This is how it is here. In Trinidad and Tobago, victims get robbed and killed, only to be robbed again, of the dignity of receiving some gesture of empathy or justice. Public officials prefer to save their emotions for more serious times like when one of them is arrested. Judging by the current outpouring of statements of compassion for Minister Marlene McDonald, you would swear she had died rather than been charged over allegations of corruption. Minister of Communications Donna Cox said she cried when she visited the detained Ms Mc Donald. Adrian Leonce described her as a “mentor”. Were the murdered fishermen ever mentors to anyone? Who knows? Does anyone care?
Of course another “fisherman” who was killed after the Carli Bay attack, this time by police at Sea Lots. This man was allegedly involved in the Carli Bay attack. And photos and videos of this “fisherman” went viral across social media. So did the videos of the police operations to apprehend him. A friend of mine cheered with delight when he heard the news that police had killed this fisherman. “It’s best they kill all ah them,” he said to me. And I found myself agreeing with him. “It’s true. It’s best they kill all ah them,” I replied.
There have been over 300 murders in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 so far, and we still have half the year to go. There are still more deaths for Government officials to play down and more funerals to not attend. Trinis love to say that we have become numb to violence. But that’s not true. Violence is the only thing here that makes Trinis feel stronger. That’s why I keep thinking about what it must have been like for those fishermen that night in Carli Bay. What kind of person has such little compassion, or mercy? What kind of person is cold enough to carry out an act like that? And I wonder if it’s like being the kind of person who thinks “it’s best they kill all of them.’’
I wonder if violent crime here isn’t just killing us but also turning us into the people who are killing us.
—Darryn Boodan is
a freelance writer