AT long last, the T&T Defence Force took such command as is available to its top brass and assumed some leadership in a case that had left unanswered questions about sensational non-military misdoings by its rank and file. Disclosures from September 22 about Drugs Sou Sou, involving multiple millions of dollars, apparently managed by a soldier, had earned public astonishment. Prime Minister Keith Rowley reckoned it a “national security” concern, and obtained investigative help from Barbados and the UK.
Only last weekend, however, came official confirmation that Drugs Sou Sou magnate Kerron Clarke holds Lance Corporal rank in the army. His off-duty dealings entailed collaboration with uncounted numbers of citizens in Trinidad and in Tobago. Until, however, news broke about police seizure of $22 million in cash from the DSS La Horquetta head office, the lance corporal’s superiors had remained unknowing and incurious at Teteron.
Finally in receipt of relevant intelligence, the army cited “internal investigations” into what soldiers out of uniform might be up to, and whether such activities could qualify as “contrary to good order and military discipline”. The single response has been to send the Lance Corporal on 83 days’ annual leave while the top brass continues “to collaborate with the (police) to ensure a transparent and thorough investigative process”.
Media reports have yet to identify recruitment of comrade privates, other non-commissioned, or superior officers to the DSS financial operations. The lance corporal in charge has, however, been afforded annual-leave time on his hands to advance his personal objectives.
What rules govern his spending of official time-off, which had proved incapable of regulating performance of his sensational sideline while still formally on duty? That’s where matters stand, in a country where public affairs are too frequently defined by matters classifiable as helplessly unfinished business.
Back from vacation and quarantine, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has been challenged to renew focus on more than the big-money DSS investigation(s). He immediately committed to personal overview of enforcement of anti-coronavirus regulations.
With CoP Griffith, this means both combative talk and action. He voiced disapproval of attitudes suggesting that “citizens have become relaxed”. He discerned such disposition, arising from complacency over hopeful Covid-19 counts, among people frolicking on beaches. He deplored unwillingness to wear masks, and to maintain social distancing while companionably taking drinks outside popular bars.
Against such indifference to publicised regulations, the CoP committed personally to be on the beat. Again, he invited calls to 482-GARY from scandalised law-abiding citizens.
As a many-sided menace to public well-being, Covid-19 incomparably dominates the T&T panorama of anxieties. Despite all the restraints on public behaviour, however, murders keep on commanding headlines, even if the year-to-date count remains about 100 short of the 2019 toll.
With guns as the overwhelming means of murderous choice, unanswered questions and unfinished business remain as sources of public disquiet, and crowding the law enforcement agenda. From where do all these guns come?
Over the nearly five years to October 2020, Express reporter Alexander Bruzual recorded police seizure of 5,050 guns. Though thus deprived, killers supplied with the wherewithal, over that period, have sustained deadly fire on victims.
As one item of unfinished business, investigators lack actionable intelligence about the source(s) of firearms. It has occurred, to perhaps over-optimistic observers like me, that each seized firearm should provide information such as could amount to a birth certificate, and some indication of the hands into and out of which it has passed, and where.
The assumption that the guns arrive, numerously landing undiscovered from pirogues at unguarded waterfront entry points, falls short of satisfying acceptance. Recollections of 1990, when attempted-coup firearms were imported undiscovered through Point Lisas port should inform today’s speculations. Ready availability of firepower seems to justify suspicious story lines of maybe industrial-scale criminal importation,
The commissioner, an army officer during the 1990 troubles, is well placed to observe that present-day criminal armaments mark technological advances from the relatively ancient carbines and shotguns used by the attempted coup warriors. “The weapons we currently seize almost every day are not the hand-held guns from a decade ago, but fully automatic weapons—assault rifles and Uzis…capable of claiming multiple casualties,” he said. More guns are being seized, but gun killings only increase “because the likelihood of survival is far less,” he added.
Such is the stuff of the challenges facing the police under present and previous leadership. As yet, however, no reliable advances appear to make enough of a difference in taking executive command of law-enforcement prescriptions against murders, which typically come over as unpreventable mystery hits. “Don’t look,” ordered an assassin to a woman in bed next to the man targeted to receive three fatal shots at point-blank range.
CoP Griffith has argued, so far ineffectually, for denial of bail to those caught with assault weapons. That way, he proposes, potential executioners could be taken off the streets. So goes a hope shared by those overtired by the look and feel of such unfinished T&T business.