Tag Archives: State of Emergency Trinidad

Sometimes, I feel like I’m still living in Lebanon

Woke up to news this morning about the “alleged plot uncovered to assassinate Kamla.” (For my non-Trini readers, Kamla Persard-Bissessar is the current Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.)

Alleged plot to assassinate Trinidad PM Kamla

just what this country needs! As if the SOE and curfew weren't enough..

Seriously? Where am I living??!!

According to the above article,

“Up to late yesterday, more than ten persons were in police custody in connection with the alleged plot. Among them, a police sergeant who was arrested while on duty at the St Clair Police Station. He was taken to the Woodbrook Police Station.

The son of a prominent contractor in Valsayn wass also arrested by police. The suspects are being housed in separate police stations along the East-West Corridor.

A senior Government source said: “This assassination plot, the security forces have stated, is based on the anger of some criminals because of the imposition of the SoE, which was effective. This plot is a well-orchestrted plan to show that the State of Emergency was a dismal failure and an attempt to destabilise the Government.””

Sometimes I feel like I’m still in Lebanon.. you know, with constant worries about border clashes and other impending doom.

I mean, I know this is nothing new..Trinidad has had a pretty tumultuous recent past. But I never thought living in the Caribbean would be so..well..dramatic. On every level..

My friend once said, “Crime is the price we have to play for living in such a beautiful country.”

Somehow, I think that’s a pretty steep price.

Colleagues at work tell me that the “alleged plot” is “a bunch of BS,” and that the current administration is just trying to find a way to justify their actions as they have come under fire since the enactment of the State of Emergency (SOE) and curfew (which has now been lifted). “The SOE and curfew have done nothing for Trinidad..nothing! If anything, they’ve set us back even more. Criminals that were arrested, were released..wrongful arrested lawsuits are now clogging the judicial system, and businesses around the country suffered because of the curfew.. Nothing positive has come out of the government’s actions (in how they handle crime) and they are just trying to find a way to save face in the eyes of the public.”

Comments on the online version of above article express similar sentiment:

Alleged plot to assassinate Kamla:

Alleged plot to assassinate Kamla

source

I don’t know what to believe. But I will tell you that I don’t want to believe that government would go to such lengths to fabricate a story about an alleged assassination plot!! Especially after everything this country has just been through.

Sigh.

More and more, I’m realizing that I’m going to have to adopt the same ignorant attitude that I adopted when I was living in Lebanon. Cause all of this hoopla is just too much to bear. Really.

Keep calm and eat ah doubles

source

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Curfew lifted, Dr. Conrad convicted

Yesterday was a big day for Trinidad.

The 11:00pm – 4:00am curfew that was in effect since August was lifted, and Trinidadian bred Dr. Conrad Murray, was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson. Way to put yourself in the news Trinidad! (Update: No, the curfew wasn’t as a result of Dr. Murray’s trial. The two were mutually exclusive events. Apparently this wasn’t obvious for some of my international readers. Sorry!)

Dr. Conrad Murray found guilty of Michael Jackson's murder

My friends and I heard the news while we were in a movie. Well, the ‘no more curfew’ news that is. Suddenly, everyone’s phones started to light up..and people started to shout, “Curfew done! Curfew done!” (Honestly, I kinda welcomed the injection of humor since we were watching thriller, Paranormal Activity 3!)

When we left the movie, my friends and I must’ve spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out what we were going to do. “We can’t just go home! There’s no more curfew! But I’m tired.. Oh come on, let’s check out what’s going on on the Avenue!..” It felt kinda odd there for a second. Like we HAD to do something.

So we did the only acceptable thing to do. We went to have a celebratory drink! Us and the whole of Trinidad..the streets and bars were packed with people!

Shakers Trinidad

Celebratory drink? I think yes!

Even so, all of us were home well before 11:00pm. Seems like we’ve gotten a bit to accustom to curfew hours! Either that or we’re just LAME. One of my friends was saying how she’s actually going to miss the curfew since it meant that you were forced to come home at a decent hour.. But something tells me that this weekend is probably going to change all of that.

Lifting the curfew has more implications that giving people their social lives back though. Many have been saying that crime is going to be at its worse after the curfew is finished, as criminals who have been kept at bay will want to make up for lost time – which is probably why the State of Emergency is still in effect. All eyes are on the government to see what measures they are going to take to ensure things don’t relapse.

According to PM Persad-Bissessar “Certain exercises to ensure we don’t slip back into the level of criminal activity will remain and the government reserves the right to impose limited curfews where and when necessary as advised by the Minister of National Security. According to an article that appeared in today’s Newsday, “Her future plans include measures to boost the Central Intelligence Command, retain joint patrols, expand CCTV coverage (across cities, malls and vulnerable areas), target social and cultural initiatives to help community life and created 20,000 jobs in low-income communities.” 

Here’s to hoping Trinidad finally gets the peace she deserves.

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Living under a state of emergency

Growing up in the States has imbued me with this false sense of security that follows me wherever I go.

Well.., until now.

I find myself looking over my shoulder, actively paying attention to my surroundings, making a mental note of everything and everyone around me. And this is during the day..in broad day light!! I’ve been in Trinidad for just over a month now and the only time I’ve walked on the street at night is to go two steps from a car park to a restaurant. Incredible.

Man, how different my life was only a few months ago..when I used to walk home alone after a night out on the town in Beirut. Not even thinking twice about what I was doing, what I was wearing, or what time it was.

Hamra at night

Hamra, Beirut at night.. my old stomping grounds..

If only my grandparents were still here to see this. (They recently moved to Texas to get away from the crime in Trinidad and to be closer to their children.) For years, during my annual summer vacations, they tried in vain to explain to me that “Trinidad isn’t America. Things are different here. You can’t just move around like you are accustomed to.” But I just wouldn’t have it. I insisted that I was a “big girl” who had been going out in Miami for years. And “what could possibly happen?”

And then, one night, they received a call from me, telling them that my friend had been arrested and his car impounded for no apparent reason. I was very far from home, in an area that they wouldn’t have ever let me go to had they known. Shortly thereafter (this is when I was around 15/16), they decided it was best that I stay away from Trinidad for a while. I can almost hear them on the phone to my Mom, “We can’t handle this chile anymore!!” And so.., I had to find other ways to occupy my summers until I matured enough to understand that all is not well in Caribbean paradise.

You see..in Trinidad & Tobago, crime is as old as the country itself. It is said that the country was a haven for pirates during the 17th and 18th centuries. In modern times, the criminal activity has earned Trinidad such accolades as “murder capital of the Caribbean.” And I believe Trinidad has occupied top 5 stops on other such lists as “highest number of kidnappings (per capita) in the world.” What achievements!

Crimett

There's even a website dedicated to crime in Trinidad! check it out: http://www.crimett.com

I’ve been asking around.., trying to understand “how things got so bad.”

Everyone seems to have a different answer.

Some site Trinidad’s role as the largest trans-shipment point for drugs and guns between Latin America and North America. Others site the breakdown of the family unit. And yet others say its due to lack of opportunity, rampant corruption, an inefficient and ineffective judicial system, and as well as neglect on behalf of the government.

All of this came to a head when 12 people were murdered (in the space of two days) in August, over a drug bust that was rumored to be worth millions of dollars. In response, the Prime Minister of Trinidad, Kamla Persard-Bissessar declared a “State of Emergency.” “These large sums of money simply do not disappear from the drug trade without consequences,” she said. As a result, a 9:00pm – 5:00am curfew was imposed across the country so that police officials could “crack down on crime.” (The curfew was later change to 11:00pm – 4:00am  due to complaints, mainly by business people who operate during evening hours.)

State of Emergency Trinidadsource

All of this happened while I was in Miami..yet I decided to move to Trinidad anyway. I sooo wanted to give this country a chance, and was determined to not let anything get in my way. (But…, to be honest, I didn’t anticipate the State of Emergency and resultant curfew lasting so long. In September, the Prime Minister extended the curfew another 3 months..which puts us into December!!! Ughhhhh.)

What can I tell you about living in a country under a state of emergency? Well… aside from not being able to move around at night, everything is as normal. It seems to me like everyone has adjusted to being home by 11, and those that haven’t, have started going to curfew parties – a party, where patrons are locked inside of the club for the duration of the curfew. (From what I understand, club owners will be held responsible if patrons leave during curfew hours..so everyone is taking a risk by going to/throwing curfew parties.) Can you imagine being locked inside of a club for 5 hours? NOT ME!! Leave it to Trini’s to find away to party during a state of emergency. Nothing ever gets in the way of their social life..

Yes crime has decreased during the SoE, but many believe that it’s only because bandits have had fewer opportunities to act, and as soon as the curfew is lifted, things will not only go back to the way they were, but worsen! (Lovely thought, right?) From what I gather..the public’s perception is that the state of emergency has been ineffective in achieving its goals, and has made a mockery of the government. And honestly, I can see why. Every day, people who have been arrested under suspicion of crime or gang affiliation, are released due to lack of sufficient evidence…Many of whom are going on to sue the state millions of dollars for wrongful arrests. Not only that, but reports continue to surface about police and army officials who are abusing their power over civilians during the state of emergency. What a mess!

State of Emergency Trinidad

Nice.

You know what’s ironic to me about all of this?? That Trini’s ask me if I felt safe in Beirut.

Trinidad deserves more than this. It really does.

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