Andy-Johnson-Columnist-use

The position held by those in authority that people who demonstrated their grievance over feelings of being targeted by police were paid to cause disturbance is seriously faulty.

It demeans, dishonours and diminishes strongly held sentiments, rightly or wrongly held by people in these depressed and disadvantaged communities.

They feel stigmatised, even if many times the focus of law enforcement can be justified.

More than a week before the protests, the Movement for Social Justice had called attention to the number of police killings in the country for just the first half of the year. It was 43. The organisation called again on June 28 for the immediate arrest and suspension of the officers involved in the triple shootings in Morvant.

In its own statement on the issue, the National Joint Action Committee said the police are under no mandate to provide any information concerning any information on any matter to the Police Complaints Authority. Indeed, the director of the PCA is on record as saying the Authority cannot demand assistance in any form from the police. This is irrespective of whatever the police brass says about having no problem co-operating with the Authority.

Prof Rhoda Reddock is an academic, an intellectual, a social scientist a researcher and activist, who is not given to shooting from the lip, or the hip. She has harboured deep concerns about the fate of people in marginalised groups and communities in the country. She sits on an international panel which considers issues of discrimination against women, and the commitment of countries to eradicate same. Among her painful conclusions about the treatment of such persons and communities in our midst is that they are equally our communities, involving our children, just as much as those in other demographics.

Her conclusion that they have been neglected and further marginalised, is clear in her positions on last week’s incidents.

Of the 72 persons known to have been arrested in connection with those incidents, we know of no one who has been charged with instigating what took place, inducing such actions with bribes, to create a shutdown in the country as has been officially alleged.

We have been told information gathered by the country’s intelligence apparatus confirmed that this was action inspired by agents with money. But we have also equally authoritatively been told that this was just information, and not evidence.

What is the difference between the two in this case has not been interrogated. The authorities say they know who inspired the disturbances. No names have been called, no details as to how it was set up have been revealed.

Nothing prevents the fingering of those who were supposedly behind this. Let the country know who the culprits are, whether or not the information in hand can stand scrutiny, whether or not there is an actual offence for the action that has been so authoritatively purveyed. And a major question remains to be dissected. If such action is so despicably against the peace, order and good governance of the society, why is it not in fact a punishable crime!

Another point to be considered here is the announcement of a new committee to consider Community Renewal, arising out of these incidents. What it says is that the many similar programmes which have been tried, even within recent years, have failed to meet their established objectives.

The Rose Foundation, and the international partnership which had come together to put in place what was known as the Citizens Security Programme, are among the many initiatives in the long list that has been created.

When last one checked, the principals at the CSP were pleading just to keep the programme on its feet. It is said to have been reduced to well under its barest minimum, with merely administrative staff holding on for dear life, with only hope and a commitment to realising meaningful change, to go on.

At least for the next five weeks, the new Community Renewal effort, aimed at creating alternatives for youths in marginalised and stigmatised communities, will be subject to the pause button. The date of the general election was announced the very afternoon after this committee, and its mandate was announced. It raised immediate questions about just how urgent this task must be. And how seriously must it be taken.

What it also says, is that a fresh set of citizens has been pressed into some kind of public service on this very central issue of youth alienation, disengagement, disenfranchisement, discrimination and marginalisation, without reference whatsoever, to a similar assignment given a previous group during the last administration. It seems as though that work has remained untouched and ignored over these last five years, while the problems it was meant to address, have been left to metastasise. That exercise was headed by another renowned social researcher and analyst, and human scientist, the now retired Prof Selwyn Ryan.

Tellingly, his report was titled “No Time to Quit.” In an essay he wrote in 2012 on the subject, he foresaw what he called “The Coming Anarchy: Gangs and Governance in the Contemporary State.”

• Andy Johnson is a veteran journalist

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