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Crime and Politics

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29.FEB.08

No matter how we squirm to face unpleasant truths, the Caribbean today faces a major socio-economic problem in relation to crime. Crime in its most violent manifestations, with entire families being massacred in Guyana, whole communities terrorized in Trinidad and Jamaica, and everywhere else, Antigua, St Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, witnessing horrific murders and brazen exhibitions of armed terror by drug-related gangs.{{more}}

Our strategic location on the drug route between the southern and northern hemispheres, the brittleness of our social systems, in an age when expectations are rising faster than our ability to meet them, and the very openness of our society, render us as ready victims of crime-related developments.

The statistics for murder and gun-related crime in our region tell their own story. When little St Vincent and the Grenadines chalks up more than 30 murders for a population of 100,000 – 110,000 people, that is tantamount to 300 murders for a population of 1 million, or the equivalent of more than 3000 in New York or 18,000 for 60 million in Britain. Placed on that scale, the statistics give a picture of the gravity of our situation.

How are we as a region, and as a country, handling this potentially devastating development? Not very well, if truth be told. We understand that next month’s Intercessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government will have crime on the agenda, but can our beleaguered people expect solutions which will impact on the situation? Concern will be expressed, and statements about “deepening co-operation among security forces” made, but these will not be new. The sad thing is that too many of our politicians regard crime as yet another political football. Those in power try to capitalize on every effort to combat crime, while those in opposition use it as a stick to beat incumbent governments about being ‘soft on crime’.

None of this brings any relief to our citizens whose doors are being kicked in, sons being shot, daughters raped and communities subjected to reigns of terror. Several governments, including our own, have tried Gun Amnesties – to no avail. A range of measures, many of them reactive and knee-jerk, has been tried – little success. There have been Commissions on Crime, but no significant results. Last week we had the launch of the laudable Pan Against Crime here in SVG. But even that was despicably politicized, with some even trying to suggest the focus should be “Pan Against Rape”, in an allusion to a controversial issue here.

Crime affects us all. Worse, and frighteningly, it feeds off its own success. The more it is left to fester, the more putrid it becomes. One government’s failure to put a damper on crime might reap political rewards for its opponents, but soon they too will have to face the music. If our politicians can agree on nothing else, they must knock heads on this one, right throughout CARICOM. We need all-party, all-people, national and regional strategies to eradicate this cancer in our hitherto peaceful societies, not cheap politicking or finger-pointing.

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