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Garbage and trust

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One of the oddest and perhaps most striking images of the disturbances in East Port-of-Spain was one of a garbage truck—supposedly working for the city’s corporation—stopping and dumping its contents on the road before moving off.

This may have been the least important moment of a tense and violent day. However, it may have best portrayed the times we live in, and the dangers that lie ahead.

That’s because, when anyone feels they can do anything without any consequences, we should worry.

At such tense times, it is also essential we trust the ability and resolve of our leaders as they deal with the challenges. Right now, this trust is in short supply.

Almost every week this newspaper reports some blockade or localised unrest, together with the daily acts of violence. And then there are even more worrying—but also duly ignored—acts of economic vandalism, like the effective blockade of the site in La Brea where the Caribbean Gas Chemical plant is being built, potentially jeopardising a much needed major international investment.

Trust is even lower when it comes to our police. At times of tension—and a potential terror threat—800 of them didn’t show up for work during Carnival, either because of a mysterious collective illness or because their commanders could not get the right paperwork in time. Both are hardly good examples of the kind of leadership and professionalism that should inspire confidence.

There’s another option, floated by their own Association chief, that the absenteeism may have been the outcome of industrial relations action, a much more serious issue as it would have been illegal and taking place during a critical period.

The slow and indecisive actions of the day are also disturbing—it took quite some time for the army to join the police in East Port-of-Spain.

Many will dismiss yesterday’s disturbances as something that just happens in Trinidad and Tobago. “That’s the way we are,” they will say. This newspaper strongly disagrees.

There’s a growing and worrying pattern of disruption we must all face up to. But the moment is not to simply criticise and politicise the debate. The moment is for all those who love and work for a thriving and peaceful nation to unite and deal with these matters head on, as painful and ugly as they may be. If we fail to act, the alternative is likely to be even uglier.


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